Implantable cardiac monitors now smartphone-compatible

Today, for the first time anywhere in the world, cardiologists at the Herz- und Diabeteszentrum NRW (HDZ NRW), Bad Oeynhausen, have implanted state-of-the-art miniature monitoring devices able to communicate recorded data to commercially available smartphones. This world premiere for telemedicine will mean more comfort for patients and open up new perspectives for sufferers of atrial fibrillation, unexplained strokes or fainting spells.

The major benefit of this new technology is its simplicity: via an interactive smartphone app (called myMerlin™), patients relay the ECG data recorded by the small, insertable cardiac monitor and are also able to communicate with their physicians. These miniature monitoring devices are just a few centimeters long and have been in clinical use without smartphone interaction for several years. They are inserted under the skin during a local anesthetic and can record all relevant ECG data for up to three years.

Previously, such data had to be communicated to physicians using a high-frequency transmission device, which they had to read. The latest generation of cardiac monitors not only permits patients to record their symptoms using a smartphone and to describe individual events in more detail; it will also save them time and money, thanks to its automatic communication function. Prof. Dr. Dieter Horstkotte, Director of the Clinic for Cardiology at the HDZ NRW, stressed this, as well as the fact that patients receive support in the self-management of their diseases.

The main objective behind the development is to detect the causes of dysrhythmia, unexplained fainting spells (syncope) or strokes, in order to develop individual treatment strategies. The information previously provided by mobile ECG devices about rare events was often insufficient. For this reason, permanent monitoring of cardiac rhythm with an inserted cardiac monitor around the clock is to be recommended.

University Lecturer Dr. Georg Nölker, Head of Electrophysiology at the HDZ NRW, and his deputy Dr. Klaus-Jürgen Gutleben, have now implanted the new cardiac monitors (called Confirm Rx™, from Abbott), operable by smartphone, in the first patients worldwide. "In order to detect the causes of unexplained cardiac or stroke events, we rely on the support of our patients", Nölker explained, referring to the new technology. "Smartphones are available around the clock and easy to use. We hope that they will provide increasingly precise details about rare events occurring during limited time periods and that, as a result, patients will have access to faster diagnosis and treatment in the future."

Innovative diagnostic help

It took considerable development time to make the smallest cardiac monitor in the world smartphone-compatible. European approval (CE certification) was then obtained. The app, which is perfectly harmonized for use with the implant, is equally suited to Android and iOS phones and available in more than 35 languages. The cardiac devices are integrated using Bluetooth® low-energy wireless technology. "Continuous recording of cardiac rhythm data is possible for up to three years", said Dr. Nölker, who will be presenting the innovation for the first time at the Annual Meeting of the German Society of Cardiology in Mannheim. The chance of detecting a previously unnoticed event, such as atrial fibrillation, is at least six times higher with the new diagnostic help than with conventional 24-hr ECG devices, according to the experts at the Herz- und Diabeteszentrum NRW. The patients are telemedically monitored by the Institute for Applied Telemedicine (IFAT) at the HDZ NRW, managed by Dr. Martin Schultz. The valid medical and data protection laws and regulations are all observed, for example the stipulation that patients must sign a written declaration of consent if they wish to use the cardiac monitor in combination with a smartphone.

As a specialist hospital providing all state-of-the-art procedures, the Herz- und Diabeteszentrum NRW, Bad Oeynhausen, has been diagnosing and treating cardiac dysrhythmia for more than 30 years. The Department of Electrophysiology at the HDZ NRW, managed by senior physicians Dr. Georg Nölker (Univ. Lecturer) and his deputy Dr. Klaus-Jürgen Gutleben, is one of the leading treatment centers of its kind in Germany, expected to perform more than 1000 catheter treatments this year. A university hospital of the Ruhr-University of Bochum, the HDZ NRW participates directly in the development of innovative medical devices in order to be in a position to offer its patients the latest treatment techniques at all times.

Herz- und Diabeteszentrum Nordrhein-Westfalen
University Hospital of the Ruhr-University of Bochum
PR and Press Office
Manager: Anna Reiss
Georgstr. 11
32545 Bad Oeynhausen
Tel. 0049 5731 97 1955
Fax 0049 5731 97 2028

PD Dr. Georg Nölker, Kardiologe und Leiter der Elektrophysiologie, hat das weltweit erste Smartphone-kompatible Mini-Überwachungssystem am 6. April 2017 erfolgreich implantiert (Foto Armin Kühn).

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