Mr. Mazzitelli’s three children and eight grandchildren would all say he has a good, caring heart. Unfortunately, a good heart is not always a healthy one. Heart failure has been a significant part of his many challenges.
“A few years ago, I was rushed to the hospital because I couldn’t breathe,” he said. “It was a very scary moment that was caused by a pretty serious case of congestive heart failure.”
Heart failure means that the organ can’t pump enough blood for the body to work as it should. Kidneys that don’t get an adequate blood supply become unable to work sufficiently, so excess fluid builds up in places like the liver, legs or lungs. Mr. Mazzitelli, 69, experienced difficulty breathing because fluid accumulated in his lungs.
Many medications can help control congestive heart failure, but patients need regular monitoring to ensure their regimen is working.
“Patients with heart failure often visit doctors frequently because the condition requires significant attention to manage it,” said Alexander Lee, MD, director of the Cardiac Catheterization Lab at Long Island Jewish (LIJ) Medical Center.
Turning heart failure around
Mr. Mazzitelli not only made frequent office visits but also experienced recurrent hospitalizations. His cardiologist, Sandeep Jauhar, MD, recommended CardioMEMS, and Dr. Lee implanted the device via a minimally invasive procedure in November 2014.
A small implant for the pulmonary artery, CardioMEMS senses arterial pressure and can detect if it may be increasing — even before physical signs become apparent. The device does its most important job during a daily routine for Mr. Mazzitelli.
“Patients lie down for a minute or so each day on a pillow that is equipped for remote monitoring,” Dr. Lee said. “The pillow quickly picks up the signals from the implanted CardioMEMS device and sends the data straight to the cardiologist’s office. The doctor can adjust medications as needed to stay one step ahead of heart failure issues, even if the patient is not experiencing any symptoms.”
The CardioMEMS’s ability to transmit data from anywhere frees heart failure patients from many doctor or hospital visits. In fact, the device reduces heart failure admissions by 37 percent, according to the Champion clinical trial, which studied the efficacy of heart failure management when using pulmonary artery pressures.
Quantity of life, quality of life
“Not only is this a life-saving device, but it also did wonders for my quality of life,” Mr. Mazzitelli said. “It’s not an inconvenience to use. I’m able to stay out of the hospital, and it gives me a peace of mind that I haven’t been able to experience in years.
“It’s one of the greatest things to happen to me,” he added. “I’d recommend it to anyone who qualifies.”
The CardioMEMS is appropriate for patients with symptoms such as a marked limitation of physical activity, often accompanied by fatigue and shortness of breath, and who have been hospitalized for heart failure in the past year, according to Dr. Lee. He added that the device requires that patients be diligent and dedicated to improving their health. For example, Mr. Mazzitelli frequently talks with Tamara Jansz, cardiology physician assistant at Long Island Jewish Medical Center.
For the full CardioMEMS benefit, patients must conduct the remote transmission every day, said Dr. Lee. “It takes just a few minutes, and patients need to take the initiative to make the technology work for them. Mr. Mazzitelli is a prime example of someone who has.”
“By lying on a pillow for about 30 seconds, I can send a transmission anytime I want,” Mr. Mazzitelli said. “I also have access to a private phone line that immediately connects me to the doctors and nurses who are working with me. It’s so simple that even as a full-time contractor, I never miss a day. This is truly a God-send.”