Can a vest help manage heart failure from home?

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In a short three-month span, 59-year-old Kenny McIntyre of Columbus, Ohio, was in and out of the hospital twice. Diagnosed with heart failure he had several pounds of fluid removed each time. His condition means his heart doesn’t keep up with his body’s demands and fluid builds up. 

Heart failure is among the most common conditions that send Americans to the hospital each year. Just like in Kenny’s case, it’s common for people to face repeated and costly trips to a hospital or doctor’s office to keep their condition under control.

Doctors at The Ohio State University Heart and Vascular Center are testing what could be a simple solution. It’s a high-tech vest that can see through a patient’s chest and measure how much fluid is in their lungs.

“Until now, we haven’t had a non-invasive way to proactively monitor fluid levels,” said William Abraham, MD, a cardiologist and director of Ohio State’s Division of Cardiovascular Medicine.

The standard method is to have patients weigh themselves daily and report weight gain or other symptoms like shortness of breath and swelling. 

“By then, it could be serious enough to require hospitalization,” Abraham says.

So Abraham is leading a national, randomized clinical trial to see if the vest made by Sensible Medical can effectively monitor fluid levels and help heart failure patients live better, away from the hospital and doctor’s office.

The vest has radar technology that was first used by the military and rescue teams to see through walls and rubble. 

Now, patients slip on the vest over their clothing, lie down and push a button to get a reading. About 90 seconds later, the data goes to a secure server where the patient’s doctor or nurse can catch any trending changes and tell the patient to adjust their medication, if it’s needed.

“The goal is to keep the patient within a normal range, feeling well and out of the hospital,” Abraham says.

The trial is underway at about 40 hospitals across the country.

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