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How a vest could save lives of heart failure patients

Smart devices and their millions of applications have drastically changed how we care for our health. Counting steps, tracking heart rate and monitoring sleep have become part of our daily routines.

For those with serious health concerns, this technological and cultural shift isn’t merely added convenience: It’s capturing available data and using it to reduce costly medical care now and in the future.

One example is a new high-tech vest monitor being tested at Ohio State’s Richard M. Ross Heart Hospital that uses radar technology pioneered by the military and rescue teams. The vest monitor, worn for about two minutes each day, measures fluid in the lungs of heart failure patients.

With heart failure, the heart isn’t strong enough to keep up with the body’s needs, and fluid stays in the lungs. Too much fluid makes it hard to breathe.

“Until now, we haven’t had a noninvasive way to proactively monitor for fluid changes," said Dr. William Abraham, director of the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. "The standard has been to rely on patients weighing themselves daily and reporting symptoms such as shortness of breath and swelling. By then, it could be serious enough to require treatment in the hospital.”


Doctors are testing the vest in a national, randomized clinical trial to see if it effectively monitors and manages lung fluid, reduces hospitalizations and improves quality of life.

Patients wear the vest over clothing once a day, and a reading takes approximately 90 seconds. The data is uploaded to a secure server, where the medical care team can review it and make adjustments to medication on an outpatient basis or over the phone.

“The goal is to keep the patient within a normal range, feeling well and out of the hospital,” said Dr. Rami Kahwash, director of the Heart and Vascular Research Organization and site leader for the trial at Ohio State.

A previous, small observational study showed an 87 percent reduction in heart failure hospitalizations with vest lung fluid monitoring.

Approximately 6.5 million Americans have heart failure and the American Heart Association reports that number is projected to increase 46 percent by 2030.

With an increasing focus on noninvasive health monitoring, it’s very likely today’s millennials can look forward to a better quality of life and fewer hospital stays as they age and begin to develop chronic diseases, thanks to health care technology that’s already in their hands.