New heart attack warning system can help save lives

It is like having a crystal ball implanted in your chest.

Researchers have developed a new early warning system that could save you from one of the leading killers of men and women.

It did not feel like anything major, but it was a heart attack. Now, Carl Honaker has five stents to help keep his heart pumping. Doctors say this little machine could benefit him, and many others, who are at high risk for a second attack.

The Guardian is a heart attack warning system.

The pacemaker-like device is surgically implanted in the chest. Wires connect it to the heart. The device continuously monitors heart function and can detect signals of blocked arteries.

Dr. Andrew Kaplan says, "This is looking for subtle changes that are associated with a decrease in blood flow to a region of the heart."

If the system senses a problem, the pager flashes and beeps, and from inside the chest, the Guardian vibrates, telling a patient to get help right away.

The heads up could save a lot of lives.

According to the CDC, 50% of heart attack deaths happen within one hour of the onset of symptoms.

As for Carl, he is not sure what is in the cards for him.

He says, "I'm just glad I'm healthy and alive."

The Guardian is still considered experimental.

Fifty sites across the U.S. are testing it in clinical trials.

In all, 1,000 heart patients around the country are being fitted with the warning system.


BACKGROUND: More than one million Americans have a heart attack each year. A heart attack, or myocardial infarction, MI, is permanent damage to the heart muscle. "Myo" means muscle, "cardial" refers to the heart, and "infarction" means death of tissue due to lack of blood supply. The heart muscle requires a constant supply of oxygen-rich blood to nourish it. The coronary arteries provide the heart with this critical blood supply. If you have coronary artery disease, those arteries become narrow and blood cannot flow as well as they should. Fatty matter, calcium, proteins, and inflammatory cells build up within the arteries to form plaques of different sizes. The plaque deposits are hard on the outside and soft and mushy on the inside. When the plaque is hard, the outer shell cracks, platelets come to the area, and blood clots form around the plaque. If a blood clot totally blocks the artery, the heart muscle becomes starved for oxygen. Within a short time, death of heart muscle cells occurs, causing permanent damage. This is a heart attack. (

SYMPTOMS: Symptoms of a heart attack include: discomfort, pressure, heaviness, or pain in the chest, arm, or below the breastbone; discomfort radiating to the back, throat, jaw or arm; fullness, indigestion, or choking feeling; sweating, nausea, vomiting, or dizziness; extreme weakness, anxiety or shortness of breath; rapid or irregular heartbeats. (

THE GUARDIAN: The Angel Med Guardian system is an implantable device, IMD, which monitors the heart 24 hours/day, seven days/week. The goal is to notify patients to seek prompt medical attention even symptoms are atypical or non-existent. It is designed to detect rapid ST segment shifts that may signify major cardiac events, such as coronary artery occlusions caused by life-threatening vulnerable plaque ruptures. Once an ST shift is detected, the system is designed to alert patients to seek medical care by delivering a series of vibratory, auditory, and visual warnings. Along with the implantable device and external device, EXD, there is a physician workstation, programmer. It was developed to program and retrieve data from the IMD using EXD with long-rage telemetry. It optimize display and analysis of patient data, including electrocardiography levels, histograms and other statistics. (

Marcia Makoviecki
Angel Medical Systems

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