What can you do when you are having a heart attack, but your body doesn't give you the warning signs, or you don't realize you have warning signs?
A new implantable device might be that early warning that could save a life.
It's being tested in patients here in Tucson and at other locations across the country, but doctors need more volunteers for the study.
Frances Brazeal already is in the study.
Interventional Cardiologist Dr. Mason Garcia greets her in an examination room at Carondelet Specialist Group's Southwest Heart.
"I'm doing fine, Brazeal tells the doctor.
"Excellent," he answers.
It is great news, especially since Brazeal was in the hospital last year needing triple bypass surgery.
She also got news then that really surprised her.
"I had already had a previous heart attack and did not know it," she says.
That's not unusual.
Dr. Garcia says woman often have totally different heart attack symptoms than men.
"Simple nausea, shortness of breath, vomiting, perspiration. These kinds of things, as opposed to the classic chest discomfort radiating to the jaw, down the arms," Dr. Garcia says.
Brazeal's heart attack made her a prime candidate to participate in a study of the new device called the AngelMed Guardian cardiac monitor and alert system.
It's a pacemaker-like device that is implanted just under the collarbone.
A wire goes from it, into the heart muscle.
"Once there's an interruption of blood flow to the heart muscle, there are certain changes that the device sees that can alert the physician and the patients themselves that there may be a problem, although they may not be feeling any significant discomfort or symptoms at all," says Dr. Garcia.
The device alerts the patient with vibrations when something is blocking an artery and the blood supply to the heart.
"Five (vibrations) right in a row. There's something wrong," says Dr. Garcia.
A pager-like device Brazeal has with her at all times tells her when she needs to get to the emergency room right away.
"Time is muscle. And the more time the artery is occluded (blocked), for whatever reason, the more heart muscle is in jeopardy. The faster you come in the more heart muscle you save," explains Dr. Garcia.
Dr. Garcia thinks the AngelMed Guardian system may give doctors that extra time they need to help their patients.
"To help save lives and help save heart muscle. And this is one step--a very giant step in that process," he says.
For Brazeal, the system will give her the early warning that her body doesn't.
"It gives me peace of mind in that I'll be able to have more time with my kiddoes, and watch my grandchildren grow up," Brazeal says.
The AngelMed Guardian system study will continue another four years at about 100 locations across the country.
The study is recruiting a total of 600 participants.
If all goes well, the data will be submitted to the Food and Drug Administration to try to win approval for the device.
There are a few requirements for study participants, including that they have had a heart attack within the past six months.
For more information on the study and to see if you are eligible to participate, call Carondelet Specialty Groups Research Manager Ken Peart in Tucson at 520-258-4002.
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