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YOUR HEALTH: Checking your rhythm all of the time

A new monitoring system lets doctors know immediately if a patient's heart is out of sync

NEW YORK — Atrial fibrillation, or AFib, is a condition where the heart races or quivers, resulting in an irregular heartbeat. 

As many as six million Americans have it and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that number will double by 2030. 

Now, a new device lets doctors monitor patients in real time, even when that patient is at home.

"It would be like a cold sweat, then dizziness, chest pain. I couldn't breathe," Misel Mirdita recalled.

The last thing he expected was heart trouble at age 37. 

But last year he started having symptoms that his wife Kristen wouldn't let him ignore.

"My heart rate would be sometimes one hundred and sixty, one eighty."

"When we went to urgent care, he really felt bad," said Kristen.

"They sent him straight to the emergency room."

Doctors suspected A-Fib.

Dr. Jossef Amirian wanted to use mobile cardiac telemetry, or MCT, to keep an eye on him.

It's a new system called BioFlux.

"The Bioflux is a monitor, which, has three leads, which sit on the patient's chest," Dr. Amirian explained.

The leads transmit signals into a portal alerting doctors to abnormal rhythm in real time.

"Picking up that rhythm, the abnormal rhythm, is extremely important," he added.

"It can completely change the outlook and the management of a patient. Which can make all the difference."

Mirdita put the heart monitor on.

The difference was seen just a few hours later.

"We got a phone call. It was like, 11 o'clock at night," Kristen remembered.

"We were in bed, and we were like, who's calling us?"

The BioFlux picked up a serious, abnormal rhythm. 

Mirdita's doctor recommended an ablation to block the afib.

"We went in for the surgery Friday, and he went back to work on Monday," said Kristen.

It's been life-changing for Misel.

"Now I feel like young boy again. I feel much better."

Benefits of MCT

Mobile cardiac telemetry (MCT) is a cardiac monitoring method that uses a small portable device to monitor a patient's cardiac activity, such as recording the patient's heartbeat as they run errands, exercise, and sleep. 

It is one of the most effective methods of cardiac monitoring by having the ability to analyze every heartbeat with little interference to the patient's normal day, and the opportunity to initiate an immediate emergency response as needed. 

It delivers advantages to both the patient and the physician that can lead to more efficient care. 

Data collected through the device is transmitted to the monitoring center and reviewed by professionally trained staff, who look for any abnormalities as they occur. 

The device also evaluates AFibs and pauses, determining the percentages of tachycardia, bradycardia, and then compiles a comprehensive list of calculations. 

An end of study report is then created and sent to the physician.

Another clinical trial underway

CHANGE AFib is a clinical trial that will determine whether early treatment with the antiarrhythmic drug dronedarone improves cardiovascular and long-term outcomes in patients with first-detected AFib. 

The trial is a collaboration between the American Heart Association and Duke Clinical Research Institute. 

"Although several clinical trials have addressed the optimal treatment strategy for patients with symptomatic and recurrent atrial fibrillation, we do not yet have evidence on the best early treatment plan for those who have just been diagnosed with first-detected cases," said Dr. Jonathan Piccini, American Heart Association volunteer, cardiac electrophysiologist, and associate professor of medicine at Duke University. 

The CHANGE AFib trial will conclude in 2024 and will be conducted using patient data from hospitals participating in the American Heart Association's nationwide "Get With The Guidelines" AFib registry.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.

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