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New implant allows heart patients to receive at-home treatment

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Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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SALT LAKE CITY — A first-ever heart implant will allow Harold Ovard's doctors to monitor his congestive heart failure and atrial fibrillation from his home. The technology, first developed to monitor engine pressure in jet airplanes, can detect heart problems long before symptoms arise.

"Evidently I've got a good strong heart, but it's a little stiff on the bottom end. What did they call it?" Harold asked his wife. "I've got a hard heart, didn't they say?"

Doctors placed the implant, a coil that fits in the palm of the hand, in his the Coalville resident's pulmonary artery. It's powered by radio waves — no battery needed.

Dr. Edward Gilbert, a cardiologist at University Hospital, said the radio wave from Harold's implant is sensed by a device inside a pillow that's hooked up to a computer.

"The patient, in the morning, will lie on it and turn on the device. And it will measure the pressures, and then through cellphone lines it will get to the Internet," Gilbert explained.

If doctors detect pressures are going up, they will adjust his medications accordingly, he said. The small implant can last indefinitely.

What we have is a device that's passively in the pulmonary artery of the patient, that allows us to monitor the pressures in his heart.

–Dr. Edward Gilbert, U. cardiologist

"What we have is a device that's passively in the pulmonary artery of the patient, that allows us to monitor the pressures in his heart," Gilbert said.

Harold has a lot to live for. He and his wife, Delores, have been married for 55 years. Now retired from the cement company where he worked as an engineer for 37 years, he and Delores have five children and 12 grandchildren.

"I learned to just always answer, 'Yes, dear,’ ” he joked.

Harold went home within hours of the procedure, with no pain following.

"I feel real good, as good as I did when I walked in," he said. "I can't tell no difference."

Doctors say the implant will greatly reduce costly and lengthy hospital admissions and, most importantly, improve the quality of life for patients like Harold.

That's music to Delores' ears.

"It went wonderful," she said. "It was fast, and the doctors did a good job. He's ready to go home."


Heather Simonsen


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