The University of Florida is seeking companies interested in commercializing a system that can tell whether heart pumps continue to function properly when patients discharged from the hospital return home. More patients than ever use the pumps, called ventricular-assist devices, and use them for longer periods of time. While the pumps in the past served as a temporary aid for heart patients expecting to recover or awaiting transplant, now elderly patients living with congestive heart failure use them on a more permanent basis. More than three million people in the rapidly aging American population have congestive heart failure - their hearts can’t pump well enough to meet their bodies’ needs - and the number will likely continue to increase with the life expectancy of the population. This trend increases the probability that the pumps may fail after a patient leaves the relative safety of a hospital intensive-care unit. University of Florida researchers have discovered a non-invasive system to listen for changes in the pump’s acoustic signature that indicate impending failure. It offers the unique advantage of being able to monitor the acoustic footprint of the device and try and detect wear patterns before they become a clinical problem. The new system is more reliable and uses less cumbersome materials. The system could also be used to assess the function of other devices implanted in patients. No product on the market today can non-invasively assess and monitor the function of ventricular-assist devices outside of a hospital intensive-care unit setting in real time.
A system to monitor a heart pump’s sound that could also apply to other implanted medical devices
- Simplifies a cumbersome design, increasing the device’s efficiency
- Distinguishes device noise from background noise, avoiding false alarms and improving reliability
- Targets a growing population of elderly congestive-heart-failure patients providing growing market opportunity
- Monitors devices outside the hospital, giving patients peace of mind and avoiding catastrophic outcomes
- Improves reliability, cutting the expense of false alarms, surgical diagnosis and catastrophic outcomes
Using stethoscopes and other sensors, doctors monitor the function of a ventricular-assist device, a heart pump, implanted in a patient’s body. The sensors, attached to the patient’s body with a belt or in another manner, feed a computer, which analyzes whether the sounds came from the pump or from elsewhere in the patient’s body. This feature can decrease the number of false alarms; it can tell whether the sound comes, for example, from a patient’s intestine and not from the heart pump. If the sound comes from the pump, the computer analyzes the sound to determine whether it matches the signature produced by a failing device. The computer has a database of signatures produced by many different brands of heart pumps. A doctor could check the device in a hospital or medical office, or a patient could even check the device without leaving home, by attaching the sensors, hooking them up to a laptop and logging on to a wireless network.