Keeping an Eye on the Heart — The Advantage of Implantable Cardiac Monitors
Interview with Helge Wuttig, Hospital and Clinical Trials Coordinator at the Mühlenkreiskliniken hospital group in Minden
Implantable cardiac monitors allow for continuous long-term monitoring of a patient's heart rhythm and remotely transmit detected arrhythmias to the physician. In this interview, Helge Wuttig explains the advantages of this therapeutic method for the patient.
Mr. Wuttig, at the Mühlenkreiskliniken Minden you care for patients with implantable cardiac monitors. What exactly do these devices do?
Implantable cardiac monitors (ICM), also known as event recorders, work like long-term ECG monitors. They monitor the heart over long periods of time and reliably detect irregularities in the rhythm.
In which cases does it make sense to use an ICM?
They are most frequently used to investigate symptoms such as dizziness, recurrent fainting spells, or palpitations as well as to diagnose atrial fibrillation (AF), which is one of the most common and often asymptomatic arrhythmias.
What is the monitoring goal in that case?
AF is a significant risk factor for a stroke. The best therapy is to prevent a stroke through medication or surgical intervention. The success of these measures, however, is dependent on identifying and treating high-risk patients in time. Unfortunately, AF is detected too late in many cases, often only in the course of acute stroke treatment. Conventional, non-invasive monitoring methods, such as 24-hour or 7-day ECG monitoring, are often insufficient to make a reliable diagnosis. Usually, long-term continuous monitoring is required to reliably diagnose "silent", i.e., asymptomatic AF, and then implement the best therapy to avoid consequences.
Unfortunately, AF is detected too late in many cases, often only in the course of acute stroke treatment. Conventional, non-invasive monitoring methods, such as 24-hour or 7-day ECG monitoring, are often insufficient to make a reliable diagnosis.
How does long-term monitoring work?
Medical information is transmitted via remote data transmission, known as Home Monitoring. If the implanted device detects a deviation in the heart rhythm, an ECG is recorded and forwarded to the treating physician within the next 24 hours via the patient’s mobile communication-enabled transmitter — the CardioMessenger. This is how we can identify high-risk patients quickly and treat them in a targeted manner.
Does that mean the patients themselves do not have to do anything?
The remote data transmission is completely automatic and usually happens at night. In our experience, this makes the monitoring highly reliable. However, the patients are still responsible for their health. We encourage our patients to document and share their symptoms and subjective well-being with us via a dedicated Patient App. This enables us to compare the symptoms in real time to the patient's heart rate and give episode-related feedback.
Can patients count on reliable detection and transmission of their episodes?
The most recent cardiac monitors, such as BIOMONITOR IIIm, are so sensitive that they detect even the slightest irregularities. At the same time, special algorithms filter out irrelevant information and make the diagnostic result very accurate. BIOMONITOR patients can also use the Patient App to check when the last Home Monitoring transmission took place and receive feedback from their physician. The communication between patient and physician supports the entire diagnostic process and saves valuable time in day-to-day health care by making additional inquiries redundant.
This interview was initially published as a supplement in the weekly newspaper ZEIT.