9 January 2019

Royal Papworth Hospital implanted its first revolutionary CardioMEMS device just before Christmas, which will allow doctors to monitor heart failure patients from home.

The wireless sensor – which is around the size of a few grains of rice – is implanted into the pulmonary artery via the groin and, because it is battery free, never needs to be replaced.

The sensor then links-up with an ‘electronic pillow’ in the patient’s home, transmitting information back to Royal Papworth Hospital. If the readings deteriorate then an early warning alert is sent to the care team.

This allows doctors to make changes to a patient’s treatment before they feel increasingly unwell and reach a stage when they would need to be admitted to hospital.

Julie Maher, from St Ives, was the first Royal Papworth patient to undergo the two-hour procedure on 17 December, having been diagnosed with heart failure back in February after symptoms of what seemed like a cold refused to go away.

“Being diagnosed was a huge shock”, Julie, 59, recalled. “I quickly went from being fit and walking miles with my dog to not being able to walk 100 yards or even upstairs without getting out of breath.

“Doctors told me that my heart was functioning at less than half of what it should have been.”

Julie took medication to control the disease, but in September doctors at Royal Papworth invited her to take part in a trial involving the CardioMEMS device.

After listening to what the doctors had to say, Julie’s husband, who was with her at the appointment, said it was a ‘no-brainer’.

“I was nervous about the procedure, but I knew I had to try it,” Julie said. “I went home on the same day and, apart from taking a few minutes each day to do the monitoring, it has not had any impact on my day-to-day life.

“It’s so reassuring to know that the device is constantly reviewing my heart every day and letting my doctor know straight away if there are any problems.”

Dr Stephen Pettit, consultant cardiologist at Royal Papworth, said: “CardioMEMS is a revolutionary home monitoring system for patients with heart failure. The tiny, implantable sensor wirelessly communicates with an 'electronic pillow' every day and pressure readings are automatically sent back to the doctor.

“This allows us to pick up any change in the patient's condition immediately and make necessary adjustments to their medication. We believe this will reduce the risk of long and expensive hospital admissions due to heart failure in the coming years, with the potential to save the NHS time and money.

“This was the first Royal Papworth patient that we’ve included in this large nationwide study but we hope to perform more implants in the coming months.”