Keeping Tabs on Advanced Heart Failure – Wirelessly
NOVEMBER 12, 2019
Kyree Miller (second from left), with David Liu, MD, Marwa Sabe, MD, and Cathy Lee, NP, at the second annual Healing Hearts event for patients with advanced heart failure, September 2019.
A monitoring system called CardioMEMS can help patients with advanced heart failure stay out of the hospital
Kyree Miller, 34, recently enrolled as a full-time student at UMass Boston, majoring in biology and pre-med. His curiosity and enthusiasm make him a natural for this rigorous curriculum, but there's another reason why he's decided to study medical science: He knows firsthand what it's like to live with chronic disease.
Miller has advanced heart failure, an irreversible condition that results when the heart can no longer pump adequate amounts of blood to the body. He has undergone three open heart surgeries, numerous procedures, and has been in and out of the hospital more times than he can remember. But these days, he's more likely to be out than in.
That's because last year, Miller had a CardioMEMS device implanted inside his heart's pulmonary artery. This tiny pressure-sensing device remotely monitors his condition, wirelessly sending data back to the Advanced Heart Failure team at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
"Once implanted, CardioMEMS can take measurements of pressure and fluid levels and track how the heart is working," explains Shweta Motiwala, MD, a member of BIDMC's Advanced Heart Failure team. "This means that patients don't have to keep coming back to the hospital. We can adjust medications or modify treatment plans to keep patients' heart failure under control while they remain at home."
Now, each morning, Miller lies on a "smart pillow" that collects information from a sensor in the CardioMEMS device and transmits wireless messages to the Advanced Heart Failure team. The staff then contacts Miller by phone with updates on his condition.
Like many patients with advanced heart failure, Miller's heart has trouble pumping adequate blood to the kidneys, leading to "fluid overload" when the body tries to compensate and retains salt and water. He also, at times, experiences symptoms caused by dehydration.
"My body is hypersensitive and it was difficult for my caregivers to know based on what I was feeling whether my symptoms were the result of fluid overload, dehydration or something else," Miller says.
"With CardioMEMS, I don't have to play the guessing game about what's happening with my heart and neither do the nurse practitioners or the doctors," he adds. "I routinely transmit my data to the heart failure team and they can alert me if they see anything that needs adjusting, such as the dose of my diuretic medication. Or, if I'm feeling any symptoms, I can contact them and they can check the data for me."
Without CardioMEMS, Miller says it would have been difficult, if not impossible, for him to take classes four days a week. "I've known for a long time that I wanted to go to school to study pre-med, but I had to get my health in order before I could move forward. Now I'm very, very happy."