How a Monitoring Device Helps Patients with Heart Failure

Ask the Experts


Hal Skopicki, MD, PhD
Chief, Cardiology and Director,
Heart Failure and Cardiomyopathy Center
Stony Brook University Heart Institute

Parikh Puja Parikh, MD, MPH
Director, Structural Interventional Program
Stony Brook University Heart Institute

Patients with heart failure are faced with many life-challenging problems. With progression of symptoms, many patients require hospitalization. To help reduce the chance of hospitalizations, physicians at the Stony Brook University Heart Institute are using advanced monitoring technology, including the CardioMEMS™ Heart Failure Monitoring System to allow patients to gain control of their heart failure care. Hal Skopicki, MD, PhD, and Puja Parikh, MD, MPH, explain how the device works and how it helps improve quality of life. 

What is heart failure?
Heart failure is when the heart is still working, but it’s not pumping blood as well as it should, so the body isn’t getting the oxygen and nutrients it needs. When blood isn’t pumped out of the heart efficiently, fluid backs up into the lungs and other parts of the body, causing swelling and shortness of breath. It can be a dangerous situation for heart failure patients.

What are the symptoms of worsening heart failure?
In the early stages, patients may not have any symptoms. But as the heart function worsens, people can have shortness of breath (at rest or with activity), bloating, swelling, weight gain and/or fatigue. If left untreated, many patients require hospitalization to help them get their symptoms under control.

What is CardioMEMS and how does it help?
CardioMEMS is an FDA-approved heart failure monitoring device that has been proven to improve quality of life and reduce hospital admissions due to worsening heart failure. It lets us keep track of a patient’s heart function, so we can spot early signs that someone with heart failure is getting sicker and treat them without admitting them to the hospital.

How does CardioMEMS work?
CardioMEMS is a small device, about the size of a dime, that is implanted via a catheter (a thin, flexible tube) and permanently resides in a blood vessel. CardioMEMS measures the pressure pushing back on the lungs from the heart to alert you and your doctor earlier that your heart failure may be getting worse.

Nearly automatically, the device transmits information on your fluid retention and heart pressure to us at the Heart Institute without the need for the patient to leave their home. Using a specialized pillow, the patient lies down on it for a few minutes each morning, after which the information is transmitted to us electronically. The pillow collects information from the implanted CardioMEMS device and sends it to us. We can then directly call you to adjust your medicines and other treatments, even before you become aware of a change in symptoms or weight.

How is the device inserted?
The device is placed using a nonsurgical, minimally invasive procedure using a catheter. We make a small nick in the groin and guide the catheter, which carries the CardioMEMS device, through the blood vessels and up to the pulmonary artery. Most people don’t need sedation, and there’s no big incision and no blood loss. People often go home the same day.

How does CardioMEMS improve quality of life?
Heart failure symptoms like swelling or bloating, shortness of breath and fatigue can make a person less inclined to be active, to socialize or to just go about a normal, everyday life. The CardioMEMS device alerts us to very early signs of worsening disease, so we can make adjustments that help the patient feel well enough to enjoy an improved quality of life.

What distinguishes the Heart Institute?
Through research and access to advanced technologies, we continually provide patients with more efficient, more comfortable, and safer care to improve the diagnosis, treatment and recovery from heart disease. Stony Brook Heart Institute fights cardiovascular disease from every angle, using the most innovative and effective tools available. Whether you are seeking ways to prevent heart disease or have a highly complex cardiac condition, we are ready to help.

CardioMEMS is for patients with heart failure who have been admitted to a hospital within the past year. To find out how this can help, call us at (631) 44-HEART (444-3278).

For more information about Stony Brook Medicine, call (631) 444-4000.

All health and health-related information contained in this article is intended to be general and/or educational in nature and should not be used as a substitute for a visit with a healthcare professional for help, diagnosis, guidance, and treatment. The information is intended to offer only general information for individuals to discuss with their healthcare provider. It is not intended to constitute a medical diagnosis or treatment or endorsement of any particular test, treatment, procedure, service, etc. Reliance on information provided is at the user's risk. Your healthcare provider should be consulted regarding matters concerning the medical condition, treatment, and needs of you and your family. Stony Brook University/SUNY is an affirmative action, equal opportunity educator and employer.