In a major advance for heart patients, Loyola University Health System is the first hospital in the U.S. to implant into a patient a new FDA-approved defibrillator which automatically signals the doctor via wireless satellite transmission if the patient's heart beats abnormally or if the device malfunctions, e.g., battery failure.
When a patient's status changes, a built-in microchip of Biotronik's Lumos DR-T implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) sends a signal to a satellite via a small transmitter that can be placed on a nightstand, worn on a belt or kept in a purse. In addition, Biotronik's Home Monitoring system virtually instantaneously sends a beat-by-beat record (similar to an electrocardiogram (ECG)) of any heart rhythm abnormality which the doctor can view on a secure website.
"The patient doesn't have to press any button or call the doctor to activate the system," said cardiac electrophysiologist Dr. Niraj Varma, associate professor of medicine, division of cardiology, Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, and director of the cardiac electrophysiology lab, Loyola University Health System, Maywood, Ill. The notification signal is automatically generated, even if the patient is unaware of any problems. The doctor can program the device to send an alert for specific reasons, such as a significant increase in the number of irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) episodes, as well as the preferred alert method, i.e., via email, cell phone, fax or page.
"With this surveillance system, physicians for the first time have a way to monitor non-hospitalized heart patients 24-hours-a-day, seven days a week," he said. "It will enable us to identify problems early on as well as help prevent problems."
Implanted in the chest, the ICD is a small electronic device which shocks the heart back into a healthy rhythm if it detects an abnormal heartbeat. Irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) is a major cause of death following heart attacks. Studies have shown mortality is lower in ICD-treated patients.
"The new ICD provides faster delivery of care to patients and also reduces the number of times a patient has to go to the doctor's office for follow-up visits," said Varma, who specializes in treatment of arrhythmias.
Because patients' heart muscle pumping action can be poor as a result of the heart attack, it is important to monitor heart activity. Now it can be done 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week. Varma implanted the device into a Loyola patient on Friday, August 26, 2005.
Loyola University Health System's heart program is ranked as the top program in Illinois, according to U.S. News & World Report's annual survey of more than 6,000 hospitals nationwide. This is the third year in a row that Loyola has achieved the top spot for Heart Care and Heart Surgery in the state.
Loyola opened its new 10,000-square-foot Center for Heart and Vascular Medicine on the Loyola University Medical Center campus. Loyola's 3,500-square-foot Sally & Jim Dowdle Electrophysiology Laboratories includes two dedicated fluoroscopy suites equipped with state-of-the-art multichannel digital recording systems, 3-D mapping systems, intracardiac echocardiography and a laser system.