A heart failure patient has become the first in the UK to be fitted with an early warning sensor the size of a pen lid which gives off an alert if their condition deteriorates.
Consultant cardiologists Dr Andrew Flett and Dr Peter Cowburn have pioneered the procedure to fit the FIRE1 System during trials at University Hospital Southampton (UHS), Hampshire.
“The procedure is part of a cutting-edge international research study which intends to prove this new way of monitoring and treating heart failure patients is safe and effective,” a UHS spokeswoman said.
“The unique technology is a sensor about the size of a pen lid which is designed to monitor the amount of fluid in the body – elevated levels can give an indication of worsening heart failure.
“The device is implanted into the inferior vena cava (IVC) – the body’s largest vein – located in the abdomen, which carries oxygen-depleted blood back to the heart.
“It works by continuously measuring the size of the IVC giving a marker of the amount of fluid in the body.
“High levels can increase the risk of breathing difficulties and a build-up of fluid in the lungs which can lead to an emergency hospital admission.”
The device is implanted during a simple 45-minute procedure using a small catheter which is placed in a vein at the top of the leg. It is collapsed on entry so it can be pushed up into the IVC where it expands to its full size.
After surgery patients are provided with an external detection belt worn across the abdomen for one to two minutes a day which powers the implanted sensor using radiofrequency energy.
Data is sent from a patient’s home to the heart failure team at UHS daily with the aim of alerting the team to early warning signs so they can intervene before their condition worsens significantly.
Dr Flett said: “This innovative new device has the potential to improve patient safety and outcomes in the management of patients with chronic heart failure and we are delighted to be the first site in the UK to implant as part of this ground-breaking study.
“We have now successfully implanted a second patient with the device and data is already being transmitted which we look forward to receiving so that we can intervene earlier in a bid to reduce hospital visits and keep patients well for longer.
“Heart failure is a significant burden on the NHS and so pioneering advances such as this could help to reduce that pressure.”
He added: “It is estimated that one in five people will develop heart failure and earlier intervention when patients start to deteriorate can make a huge difference and the hope is that this new FIRE1 device will do just that.
“It is an exciting new development for patients with this condition.”
The university spokeswoman added: “FIRE1 has successfully completed its early phase of clinical trials and is now expanding its study to evaluate the feasibility and safety of implanting the FIRE1 System in heart failure patients.”
She explained that heart failure occurs when the heart cannot pump blood around the body efficiently, causing fluid to build up.
She said that UHS admitted 700 patients with the condition every year with 900,000 people estimated to be living with heart failure in the UK, costing the NHS £2 billion per year.