OGDEN -- McKay-Dee Hospital is only one of two centers in Utah participating in a clinical trial involving patients with heart failure.
The five-year trial utilizes an implantable device to monitor heart health from any location and in real time.
"The device continuously measures pressure inside the heart and delivers information to doctors through the Internet," said Dr. Jerry John, director of the heart failure clinic and cardiac rehabilitation center at McKay-Dee Hospital. "After the device is placed under the patient's collar bone, they can go about their daily life. They can even go to Hawaii if they want to and I can still monitor what's going on with their heart."
John said many patients typically begin to have rising pressure in their heart about two weeks before they land in the hospital, and on average 21 to 25 percent of heart failure patients are readmitted within a month. The cost to Medicare on average, said John, is $20 billion and is the largest expenditure for Medicare.
"Our goal is to catch it and reduce admissions to the hospital," John said.
More than six million people in the United States have heart failure, also known as congestive heart failure. The condition occurs when the heart muscle can no longer pump blood as well as it should. While most patients are at risk after the age of 40, John said he has seen people as young as 19 with the condition.
Risk factors include having high blood pressure, heart blockages, heart attacks, diabetes, certain viral infections, alcohol use, sleep apnea, some congenital heart defects and irregular heart beats. Symptoms include shortness of breath while doing normal daily activities as well as when you lie down, swelling in the legs, ankles and feet, persistent cough, rapid heart beat, high blood pressure, sudden weight gain and loss of appetite.
Up until now, John said, the only way for doctors to diagnose heart failure was through in-office examinations to gather weight changes and detect fluid build up around the heart. Medications were then given to help prevent further problems. The device being used in the clinical trial can alert patients and physicians to changes in the heart and medications can be adjusted more quickly.
"Cancer tends to strike fear in people, but if you're 80 years old and you have heart failure, it's worse than cancer," John said. "The bottom line is, it's a lot easier to prevent than it is to treat."
Patient's are still being accepted into the clinical trial. John said to qualify you must have been admitted to the hospital within the past year for heart failure and have no evidence of severe kidney, liver or lung disease. If interested, call, 801-387-3850.