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An implanted device could warn of heart attack

More than 30 percent of the one million heart attack victims in the United States each year die before seeking medical attention. While there have been many campaigns to educate the public about the signs of a heart attack, researchers say there are still too many people that don’t seek medical care fast enough.

A new device

In an effort to help older adults know when they are having a heart attack, a research group has designed an implantable device that would vibrate and make noise if the person’s heart starts to fail.

“A vibrating alarm provided by the implanted device has two major advantages,” says Mary Carol Day, one of two researching the device called AngelMed Guardian.

“First, the implanted device can’t be left behind like a portable device. Second, a vibrating alarm from the implanted device is more likely to be felt than an auditory alarm is to be heard because, for example, the patient may be wearing heavy clothing, has hearing loss, or is in a noisy environment.”

How it works

In a series of studies with older adults designed to test the device’s design and user-friendliness, participants were able to tell the difference between the low-priority and high-priority vibration patterns and respond appropriately. They also reported that they liked the vibrating alarms and the redundancy of the auditory, visual, and vibrating warnings.

The study raises interesting questions like; How far are patients willing to go to be alerted of a heart attack? What are the side effects of such a procedure? What if the implant malfunctions?

More studies needed

While more studies need to be conducted, Day believes the device does have a place in the future of heart care.

“If the Guardian is approved for sale by the FDA,” continues Day, “it might be extended in ways that will change the way the patient interacts with the system as a whole. This would require more research and simulated-use studies to refine and validate the new interactions between the patient and the system.”