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Marcia Keith, clinical manager of the cardiac catheterization laboratory at Methodist Jennie Edmundson Hospital, inside the hospital.

A tiny piece of technology at Methodist Jennie Edmundson Hospital is working to keep Bluffs heart failure patients out of the hospital.

The new CardioMEMS sensor monitors patients for growing signs and symptoms of chronic heart failure by measuring pressure in the pulmonary artery in real time.

The device, which looks a little like a small butterfly, is inserted into the artery, which is close to the back of the heart, and uses microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) technology to monitor changes. The sensor is powered by radio frequency energy.

Marcia Keith, Jennie’s catheterization laboratory manager, described how it works: Following an implantation of the sensor, patients once home lay on a special pillow each day for about one minute. The pillow transmits a reading to their doctor. The physician can then to adjust medications before the patients start experiencing symptoms of heart failure, which reduces the need for hospitalization.

Patients who receive a CardioMEMS sensor go to the hospital for an outpatient procedure that lasts about an hour. The patient is discharged later that day and doesn’t feel the sensor once it is inside the body.

“The advantage of the CardioMEMS sensor is that providers can see that a patient may develop heart failure symptoms approximately three weeks before the patient starts experiencing symptoms,” Keith said. As health care providers, we have been challenged to lower the cost of providing health care. One of the ways to reduce the cost of care is by preventing readmissions to the hospital for heart failure.”

About 5.7 million people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with heart failure. While local heart failure statistics were not immediately available, the state’s Department of Public Health says Iowa ranks 43rd out of 50 states in deaths from heart disease, which includes heart failure.

Heart failure, sometimes called congestive heart failure, occurs when the heart cannot pump enough blood and oxygen to support other organs in the body, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It does not mean that the heart has stopped beating like it does in sudden cardiac arrest.

Instead, heart failure gradually leaves the heart too weak or stiff to fill with blood and pump efficiently. About half of people who develop heart failure die within 5 years of diagnosis, the CDC reports.

Keith said she sees heart failure patients every day in Council Bluffs. The disease can be caused by many underlying factors, including high blood pressure, alcohol or drug use, diabetes, obesity, and coronary artery disease. The best way to prevent it is to prevent the conditions that cause it from occurring in the first place, the Mayo Clinic says.

While many of the conditions that lead to heart failure cannot be reversed, lifestyle changes such as exercising, reducing sodium in the diet, managing stress and losing weight can improve a patient’s quality of life, according to the Mayo Clinic.

“These patients can be men or women, old or young,” Keith said. “Sometimes, we may not know the cause of heart failure.”

The Cardio MEMS heart failure program was developed at Methodist Health Systems, Jennie Edmundson’s parent hospital system, last fall. Doctors implanted the first MEMS sensor at Jennie in February, Keith said. The program so far has been successful. Interventional cardiologists perform the procedure.

The best candidates for the CardioMEMS system have been hospitalization for heart failure within 12 months of implant, and he or she the patient must have Class III heart failure, which means the disease has impaired physical activity. The patient is often fatigued, has heart palpitations, dyspnea, or anginal pain.

Patients develop shortness of breath with minimal activity, such as walking in their home,” Keith said.

There is hope, thanks to the new system, Keith said. She said she sees huge benefits for patients now and in the coming years. She has been a staple in the Jennie community, having graduated in 1988 from the hospital’s Radiologic Technology School. From there, she began working in both the radiology department and the Cardiac Cath Lab before earning a bachelor’s degree from Creighton University in Radiologic Technology as well as a master’s degree in Healthcare Operations Management from Nebraska Methodist College.

Keith became Jennie’s Cath Lab Clinical Manager since 2012, and currently manages the Cardiac Cath Lab, Interventional Radiology and Cardiopulmonary Rehab departments.

“The CardioMEMS sensor is an effective means for preventing readmissions to the hospital. It is exciting because patients will be able to continue to live their lives without coming to the hospital,” she said. “It will improve quality of life and hopefully, patient satisfaction.”

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