Today, physicians often assess pulmonary pressure when initially evaluating a patient, but they do so far less frequently in follow-up evaluation. That’s because the measurement requires doctors to snake a catheter into a patient’s heart and inflate a balloon. However, fluid pressure changes by the day, and monitoring those fluctuations continuously is essential to treating heart failure effectively.
“Over the years, we found that pressures go up long before patients develop symptoms and call a doctor to say they’re sick,” says Philip Adamson, director of the Heart Failure Institute at Oklahoma Heart Hospital, the principal investigator in the CardioMEMS clinical trial. “By utilizing the pressure sensor information, we’re given the ability to make changes in medications long before patients bring themselves to the doctor, and that’s how we reduced hospitalizations.”
Over the past few years, several companies have jockeyed to be first on the market with a continuous pressure-sensing cardiac implant. In 2007, Medtronic failed to get FDA approval for its sensor, a stopwatch-size, battery-powered implant wired to the heart. The device reduced hospitalizations by 22 percent, but FDA regulators did not consider that worth the risks associated with implanting it. Researchers also found that the wire connecting the sensor to the heart degraded over time.
CardioMEMS is currently seeking approval for its sensor from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and has submitted results from the clinical study for FDA review. In the next two or three years, the company plans to integrate the sensor’s receiver into a patient’s cell phone, which will be able to instantly read pressure data and upload it for both physicians and patients to review.