A Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital physician was the first in the Fort Bend area to use a breakthrough remote monitoring system to treat a patient with heart failure.


Board-certified cardiologist Yassir Sonbol, M.D., implanted the new CardioMEMS device, manufactured by Abbott, in a patient’s pulmonary artery via a catheter in a non-invasive procedure. The CardioMEMS unit contains a sensor that wirelessly sends pulmonary artery pressure readings to a secure website where they can be reviewed by the physician remotely, enabling enhanced management of heart failure symptoms and significantly reducing the need for hospitalizations.


“The CardioMEMS system is an example of how remote monitoring is enhancing the ongoing management of chronic diseases such as heart failure,” said Sonbol. “Having access to daily pulmonary artery pressure readings – and being alerted automatically when there is a potential problem – allows me to work more closely with my patients to adjust their medications and treatments as needed to maintain healthy pressures. The benefits are numerous; better daily management of symptoms, fewer in-person visits to the doctor and reduced hospitalizations.”


Heart failure is a chronic condition caused by a weakening of the heart muscle, reducing the amount of blood that is pumped through the body. It typically worsens over time and is usually caused by persistent high blood pressure, heart attack, valve disease or other types of heart disease or birth defects.


Heart failure is treated through a number of medications, including diuretics, angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, betablockers and digoxin combined with strict diet and exercise programs. But managing those medications properly can be a significant challenge over time.


According to the American Heart Association, nearly six million Americans are living with heart failure, and 670,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. In the United States, the number of deaths from this condition has more than doubled since 1979, averaging 250,000 annually.


“This is a disease that causes significant quality of life issues and eventually leads to the need for a heart transplant for many patients,” said Sonbol. “It’s not an exaggeration to say that remote monitoring can be a life-saver.”


The CardioMEMS implantable sensor is tiny, about the size of a dime. It is a sealed capsule that uses microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) technology for measurement stability and energy efficiency. The sensor is powered by radio frequency energy and is designed to last through the patient’s lifetime.


“Collecting the pulmonary artery pressures is a simple, painless process for the patient that takes less than 20 seconds,” said Sonbol. “The patient turns on the electrical unit that comes with the CardioMEMS system and lies on a pillow. Once the system is ready, the patient presses a button to initiate a reading. The data is then transmitted wirelessly to the secure website, where I can view it. Seeing daily pressure readings – and being able to view trends over time – gives me valuable clinical insights that I otherwise would not have.”


The use of remote monitoring via CardioMEMS is especially beneficial for older heart failure patients, especially those who are concerned about visiting their physician during the COVID-19 pandemic, said Sonbol.


“If we can maintain healthy pressures through routine monitoring, we can keep heart failure patients as healthy as possible,” said Sonbol. “The initial studies of the CardioMEMS system showed that 85 percent of patients submitted daily transmissions of data, and pulmonary artery pressures dropped significantly over time due to improved monitoring. Hospitalizations declined too, by 58 percent. I am excited about the system’s potential for improving care for patients with chronic heart failure.”