It is very difficult for an internist like me to know what's going on inside the chest of my sick heart failure patients. The fact that changes for the worse can occur without warning is the reason that over 1 million Americans are admitted to the hospital with this diagnosis every year. This number is increasing more than with any other diagnosis. From home, I can only follow a patient's weight gain, or shortness of breath, but I can't really tell when the heart, the most important pump in the body, is failing and backing up fluid into the lungs.
Now a tiny implantable chip, known as EndoSure Wireless AAA pressure management system, easily inserted into the pulmonary artery in the lung, provides measurements lets doctors know whether the heart is failing and fluid is building up.
This device or one like it could save thousands of lives - a new study just released by Ohio State University found 38 percent fewer hospitalizations over the first year. As clinical trials continue, the FDA has not yet decided whether this device should be approved for this use, though it has previously been approved for use in aortic aneurysms (ballooning of the wall of the aorta) and found to be very sensitive and accurate for this use.
The implant doesn't even require a battery. It is powered by a radiofrequency wand.
A few potential downsides are that it would be expense (will insurances cover it?), and the fact that there is no data on long term safety.
There are other devices being studied that offer similar science. One that is quite exciting is the HeartPOD system being developed by St. Jude. This device is also in clinical trials and involves a miniscule pressure monitor, implanted in the left atrium (top) of the heart, which provides hemodynamic (pressure and volume) measurements, temperature and actual internal electrocardiograms.
The long term potential for medical management of heart patients with these devices is enormous.
Star Trek technology is almost with us.
Dr. Marc Siegel is an internist and associate professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine. He is a FOX News medical contributor and writes a health column for the LA Times, where he examines TV and movies for medical accuracy. Dr. Siegel is the author of a new ebook: Swine Flu; the New Pandemic. Dr. Siegel is also the author of "False Alarm: The Truth About the Epidemic of Fear"and "Bird Flu: Everything You Need to Know About the Next Pandemic."Read more at www.doctorsiegel.com