BY KATE COOK
Patients with certain types of heart failure may be a step ahead with a new diagnostic tool now in use at Cookeville Regional Medical Center.
Dr. Michael Lenhart has begun using a cardiac MEMS device. It's part of a study at Vanderbilt University. The MEMS device is a pressure transducer. It's inserted through the leg, up into the right side of the heart and into the pulmonary artery.
Lenhart said the device sits in the artery and tracks the pressure in the artery.
The patient lies with his or her head on a special pillow for a few minutes each night. That pillow downloads the information, converts it to a wave form and transmits the information to Vanderbilt University.
Doctors there track the data, and if the pressure in the patient's pulmonary artery goes up, Lenhart can intervene by changing medication or encouraging a change in diet or activity.
"If we see a change in their pressure, it will oftentimes indicate they're going into congestive heart failure before they begin showing symptoms," Lenhart said. "This is the first time we can anticipate heart failure. If you wait for the patient to gain weight or exhibit symptoms, you're already behind the 8 ball."
The procedure takes about an hour, and the patient can go home that day if there are no complications.
Since it's a new procedure and a new approval process, Lenhart said he looked for the "perfect candidate."
He found that in Keith McWhorter, a resident of Albany, Kentucky.
Lenhart placed a cardiac MEMS device in McWhorter's pulmonary artery on Dec. 27.
"There wasn't much recovery, just a tiny drop of blood on a band-aid," McWhorter said. "It was a painless procedure, I'd highly recommend it."
McWhorter said when he developed heart problems, his primary care doctor in Kentucky recommended Lenhart at Tennessee Heart. Now his wife sees Lenhart too.
"When he said this is the first one he's ever done, I didn't hesitate," McWhorter said. "I want to do all I can to live a high-quality life in spite of the heart condition because we've got a lot of traveling to do. I lead mission projects around the world. I've got a lot to live for. I want to do everything I can to put myself in a position to stay active."
Keeping folks active and out of the hospital is the goal of the cardiac MEMS procedure, Lenhart said.
"There's only one trial out, and it showed this monitoring device reduces the readmission rate for heart failure," Lenhart said. "That's the goal, to keep people out of the hospital."