About a dozen Iowa heart patients have had experimental pacemakers or defibrillators implanted in their chests. The devices are so high-tech, they “phone home” daily so doctors can monitor a patient’s progress, even if the patient is thousands of miles away — or at home in bed. Dr. Brian Olshansky, director of cardiac electrophysiology at University Hospitals in Iowa City, says the implant is about the size of a Zippo lighter. Olshansky says a bedside device sits next to the patient and every day it can download information from the device so that it can communicate with the implantable defibrillator or pacemaker and determine if there have been any heart rhythm problems or problems with the device and then send that data to the hospital over the Internet. He says patients can also send their vital heart data right away if the urgent need arises. Olshansky says if a patient thinks they’ve had a rhythm disturbance or if they get shocked by the device, “they can manually download the information and send it to us, so they could be four, five, six hours away, or they could be across the world, it wouldn’t matter if they have that external monitoring device and they could communicate with us on a moment-by-moment basis.” He says this emerging technology enables specialists to stay in much closer contact with patients, no matter where the patients may be, offering those patients valuable peace of mind. He says “The patients have the security to know that their device is working well and that their rhythm problems are being taken care of on a minute-by-minute basis from their house, where they don’t have to come in to see us and wait to be seen in the clinic or have to come in to an emergency room at 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning.”
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