Of the 750,000 Americans who have a heart attack each year, 195,000 — one in five — will have the so-called silent symptoms, with none of the traditional signs, like pressure on the chest or pain down the left arm.
The problem is that most of the damage to the heart occurs within 90 minutes to two hours of an attack. If the victim does not recognize that he or she is having a heart attack, and does not seek medical assistance within that time frame, the chance of having substantial muscle damage is increased by 50%, studies say.
That is why a study in Greenville, S.C., is testing a medical device that is designed to warn patients when they are having a heart attack, reports GreenvilleOnline.com. The device, called the AngelMed Guardian System, is two inches square, looks much like a pacemaker, and is implanted the same way.
“It works by a lead that goes into the [...] heart that we implant which is connected to a computer that’s constantly analyzing the electrical activity, just in the way a 12-lead EKG analyzes the electrical activity of the heart, except [...] this is continuous 24/7,” says Dr. Arthur Eberly III, a cardiologist with Carolina Cardiology Consultants, who’s conducting the trial in Greenville.
If this medical device detects an electrical pattern that indicates a heart attack, it vibrates. Also, it signals a beeper and flashing red light on a device the patient carries on his or her belt. Once notified, the patient then can either call 911 or go to the emergency room.
“The point of the trial is to prove one way or another that this early notification system will bring patients into the ER for treatment sooner than relying on their own symptoms to occur,” says Dr. Eberly. “And if that pans out, we will be able to save lives and we’ll be able to decrease the extent of a heart attack, and frequently stop them in the middle and prevent any damage.”
The inventors are working on a newer version that will be implanted under the skin instead of in the heart. This version will be safer and will cost about $10,000, about the same as a pacemaker. Once the study is complete, the inventors will file for final approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a process that could take nine months to three years.
Source: “Upstate patients testing early-warning device for heart attacks,” GreenvilleOnline.com, 9/25/12
Source: “New device detects heart attack,” GreenvilleOnline.com
Image by public domain.
Dale McGeehon has been a journalist and editor for more than 25 years, covering chemical regulation and testing for Pesticides and Toxic Chemical News and innovations in material sciences for the National Technology Transfer Center. His writing credits include Omni and College Park magazines and The New York Times.