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When you initially hear the term "heart failure," you might assume that the heart has completely stopped working. In fact, the heart is working, but not to its full capacity.

Heart failure refers to a condition where the heart fails to pump enough blood for the body's oxygen needs. Heart failure is the number one reason for hospitalizations in the United States.

Rush University Medical Center in Chicago is participating in a pilot study of the LATITUDE® Patient Management system to determine if the wireless home monitoring system can decrease hospitalizations for heart failure. The centerpiece of the system is an implanted device that regulates heartbeat, delivers lifesaving shocks when necessary, and wirelessly communicates with doctors via a secure Internet server. This easy-to-use in-home monitoring device is changing the way doctors monitor the health of patients with implanted defibrillators.

A mini-antenna built into the implanted defibrillator sends data to a wireless system placed in the patient's home. The data are automatically transmitted to a secure Internet server where the physician can access this medical information anytime, from anywhere.

"This sophisticated system allows physicians to manage the patient much more closely. The same information that would normally require a visit to the office every few months can now be downloaded to the physician at anytime without the patient ever leaving home," says Kousik Krishnan, MD, a cardiac electrophysiologist at Rush.

Unlike other remote devices that only transmit data if certain parameters are out of range, the LATITUDE system uploads health information that can help physicians monitor day-to-day changes in patients. In addition to the data stored before, during and after an arrhythmia, the system employs a wireless weight scale and blood pressure monitor to record vital statistics crucial for the management of cardiac failure patients. An abrupt change in weight, for example, could indicate a change in body fluid levels and, therefore, worsening heart failure.

According to Krishnan, the LATITUDE system provides added peace of mind for the patient. The physician can remotely check if the defibrillator is working correctly and assess battery life. If the patient feels the defibrillator activate, he or she can transmit the rhythm information immediately. The physician can quickly analyze the data and determine if the shock was appropriate or if the patient needs to go to the hospital.

"Now with patient information available weekly, or even daily if needed, we can better monitor our patients," says Krishnan. "We can pick up abnormalities sooner and act on those before they become serious." Rush is one of only 18 centers in the country participating in the LATITUDE Inductive Pilot Program. In addition, Rush is one of the leading enrollers in the DECODE Trial to determine if the LATITUDE monitoring system is resulting in decreased hospitalizations.

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Please note: All physicians featured in Discover Rush Online are on the medical faculty of Rush University Medical Center. Some of the physicians featured are in private practice and, as independent practitioners, are not agents or employees of Rush University Medical Center.

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