Well Being — 03 May 2014
Tiny cardiac monitors are now fact, not SciFi

By Jana Soeldner Danger

A new cardiac monitor is so tiny it’s virtually invisible when inserted, but Medtronic’s Reveal LINQ is part of a powerful new system allowing physicians to monitor their patients’ heartbeats continuously for up to three years.

Many individuals experience irregular heartbeats, called arrhythmias. Often these beats are harmless, but some can be symptoms of life-threatening conditions. A patient with recurring fainting spells or palpitations may be a candidate for a heart monitor, which can be an external attachment or an insert. The monitor allows the physician to track the patient’s heartbeat, which can help to identify the cause of the arrhythmias.

The Reveal LINQ is a major improvement over previous insertables, says Dr. Rishi Anand, MD, director of the electrophysiology department at Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale. “It’s not just because of its smaller size, but also because it’s far less invasive. It used to take me half an hour to insert a cardiac monitor. With this one, I do it in 30 seconds with a single incision that’s only about a centimeter long. And it allows us to monitor a patient’s heart remotely, from anywhere in the world.”

The incision, just under the skin, usually doesn’t even require a single stitch, Dr. Anand says. “I just put a small bandage over it.”

Once in place, the LINQ collects data continuously. While the patient sleeps, it downloads the information to a device that can be kept on a night-side table. The data is then wirelessly and securely transmitted to the patient’s physician via the web, a hospital network or electronic health record. “It alerts us if there’s a problem,” Dr. Anand says. “It gives people peace of mind.”

The miniature monitor, which was cleared by the FDA earlier this year, is the result of efforts by a team of engineers focused on significantly shrinking the size of medical devices while also improving performance, says Joey Lomicky, a spokesman for Medtronic’s Cardiac and Vascular Group. It offers 20 percent more data storage than its predecessor, allows wireless transmissions that were not possible with the earlier version, and provides more concise data reports.

While there is still a place for external monitors, the benefits of inserts can be significant, Dr. Anand says. A recent study showed the time required to diagnose patients with implantable long-term monitors was 79 percent less than with external devices. And unlike an external monitor, there are no wires to remove when showering or swimming, and batteries don’t need to be changed.

“It’s utterly amazing compared to what used to be available,” he says. “It’s something that not long ago would have seemed like science fiction.”

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