New heart monitor trial helps patients enjoy real-time health management


by JIM BERGAMO / KVUE News and photojournalist JOHN FISHER

Bio | Email | Follow: @JimB_KVUE

Posted on October 30, 2012 at 6:36 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 31 at 12:32 PM

AUSTIN -- A new treatment option for heart disease is being tested in Austin that could be a breakthrough in the way patients manage their own health.

The Seton Heart Institute is taking part in the clinical trial called LAPTOP-HF (Left Atrial Pressure Monitoring to Optimize Heart Failure Therapy). The trial studies a new, implantable monitoring device. It's designed to allow physicians the ability to better personalize treatment for heart failure patients while giving those patients more control of their chronic condition.

"I'm very scared, very scared," said Barbara Organ of Austin.  

The 68-year-old is scared for good reason. She's had seven heart attacks in the last 20 years, including a massive one in January.  Her husband drove her to the emergency room that day.

"That's when I felt like I was on fire. If I could get out of the car, I could outrun the car and get to the hospital.

But for the last month and a half, Organ says she's felt much better, and it's all thanks to the new device called a Laptop HF monitor that looks like a pacemaker. It was surgically implanted in September, which along with a small monitor the size of a smartphone, allows her to check her blood pressure and medications.  

"If I need to put it up here, it calculates what's going on here with the device inside," said Organ.

Dr. Jason Zagrodsky, a cardio electrophysiologist with Seton Heart Institute, says the Laptop HF monitor can give heart patients and their doctors critical information immediately.

"Before this device, any of these measurements had to be taken in the intensive care unit or the cardiac catheterization lab," said Zagrodsky. "Now with this technology, we can obtain this information from home."  

Dr. Zagrodsky says the new monitor also allows patients to learn what behaviors influence their disease conditions.

"Before changes in their diet or certain behaviors, or whether they took their medications or not might take several days or weeks to have an effect on how they felt," said Zagrodsky. "Often times those events were separated in the patients' minds. Now with almost instant feedback, the patient can make an assessment when they do that activity they feel worse or their pressure is going up, and they can start to avoid that."

"It just makes me feel better that there's something there that's measuring and keeping an eye on my heart," said Organ.

St. Jude Medical developed the monitor. The Seton Heart Institute and the Heart Hospital of Austin are among the 75 sites in the U.S. chosen to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of the device.