Piedmont Medical Center has joined the list of hospitals worldwide that are offering a small, injectable heart monitor that electronically reports heart rhythms wirelessly for up to three years.
PMC is the first hospital in the region to implant a Reveal LINQ monitor in a patient, according to its manufacturer, Medtronic. It is the third hospital to do so in South Carolina.
People with irregular heartbeats, fainting spells or an unexplained stroke are candidates for the monitor.
Potential patients are likely to be older, but the Medical University of South Carolina recently implanted the Reveal LINQ in pediatric patients.
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Dr. Sushil Singhi, an interventional cardiologist with Carolina Cardiology Associates and a member of the PMC staff, did the first local implant on May 8. He has implanted about nine monitors so far. He estimates that PMC could implant as many as 200 a year. With older technology, PMC did about 100 a year, he said.
Singhi said the monitor is a tremendous leap forward for patients and doctors. The monitor is a thin stick that is one-third the size of a AAA battery and 80 percent smaller than its predecessors. It was approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in February.
Implanting the monitor is a simple procedure, requiring a local anesthesia. The monitor is inserted underneath the skin but not into the muscle between the third and fourth ribs, just slightly above the heart.
The procedure can be done in about a minute, Singhi said.
Previously, heart monitors required surgery similar to that of for a pacemaker, said Fred Schuls, director of cardiovascular services at PMC.
The biggest benefit of the Reveal LINQ is it can record up to three years worth of data, Singhi said.
“One of the biggest frustrations in cardiology today, is you can reach a diagnosis about 10 percent of the time with the current data,” Singhi said.
The current protocol for people with an irregular heartbeat, an unexplained stroke or passing out spells is to take an electrocardiogram to check for problems with heart’s electrical activity. Abnormal electrical activity can be used to diagnose symptoms of heart disease.
EKGs are often followed by longer heart rhythm studies. A small chest monitor can record data up to 48 hours and there is also a recorder that keeps four weeks of data.
The difficulty, Singhi said, is the symptoms of heart problems often present themselves at longer time intervals.
In 60 percent to 70 percent of the cases, patients complaining about irregular heartbeats or fainting “need some kind of intervention,” Singhi said.
Intervention can range from installing a pacemaker to putting a patient on medicine to thin the blood, reducing the possibility of a stroke, he said.
The monitor uses satellite technology to report data to a cardiologist’s office. The data can be monitored as frequently as needed, Singhi said.
The cost of the Reveal LINQ is about $5,000, which should be included in most insurance plans, Singhi said.