PHILADELPHIA -- Heart failure is a major, and costly, medical problem. The mean cost for one hospital stay is $15,000, and many patients are in the hospital again and again.
But a tiny device is helping to keep patients in their homes.
"I would have swollen feet, swollen legs," said Fran Slavin of Somerton.
Congestive heart failure left Slavin's body struggling to get fluid out.
"It was getting to be a habit that I was in the hospital, constantly," she said.
"My kids kept saying, 'mom, you got to stop eating or something that you're doing wrong!'' she said. "I kept saying, 'I don't know what I'm doing wrong!'"
Cardiologist Val Rakita of Temple Health says when the heart can't pump enough blood at the right pressure, excess fluid builds up, putting a strain on the heart and lungs.
Patients have trouble breathing and doing moderate activities. Medication adjustments help, but most people don't know trouble is brewing until they need hospitalization.
To break the cycle, Dr. Rakita implants a tiny sensor called CardioMEMS. Using a small catheter, the dime-sized device is threaded into the pulmonary artery, which connects the heart and lungs.
"The sensor monitors the flow of blood in their pulmonary artery," Dr. Rakita said. "It doesn't affect it in any way."
Every night, the patient lies on a special pillow, which sends data from CardioMEMS to doctors.
"This really allows us to have very precise information at any given second with very minimal effort on the patient's part," said Dr. Rakita. "It allows us to help them before they even know they need help."
Making adjustments sooner can keep heart failure patients like Fran out of the hospital.
A 2019 study showed that CardioMEMS reduced hospitalizations by 58% percent overall, 61% for women, and it can stay in the body forever.
"I feel safe with having it. I really do," said Slavin.
Fran hasn't been hospitalized since she got the device a year and a half ago.
The implant procedure takes about 20 minutes. Fran said it was easy, and the best thing she's ever done for her health.