New device to diagnose irregular heart beat

It may look just like a big Band-Aid, but this new device is helping doctors better diagnose heart problems, and get their patients the treatment they need.

Heart disease is still the leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the American Heart Association.

But heart problems can be difficult to catch early.

Now there is something very small that is making a huge difference in diagnosing those problems.

Looking at his patient’s EKG, Dr. Steven Higgins said that the visible lines mean that there is a problem.

"There's a pause there where his heart beat stops," said Dr. Higgins, a cardiologist.

But figuring out exactly what was wrong with the heart of Ken Curzon, 89, took awhile.

"I had a lot of tests,” said Curzon. “But they never could detect that I had a slow beat and then a fast beat."

They couldn't figure it out because, for more than 60 years, heart monitoring has been done with the traditional Holtor monitor that was uncomfortable and could not get wet. The Holter monitor was designed to record a heart beat for up to 48 hours, looking for irregularities.

"The earlier one was kind of like carrying a camera around all the time, hanging down here," said Curzon.

So, doctors had him try something new.

"it kind of surprised me because it's so small," he said.

It's called the Zio Patch. The two-by-five inch patch can wirelessly record heart beats for about two weeks at a time.

"To put it simply, it's a big Band-Aid with two little electrodes on the corners," said Dr. Higgins

And doctors at Scripps Health in San Diego recently studied it on 285 patients, including Ken Curzon.

"The monitor allows you to check out the heart's rhythm over a longer period of time,” said Higgins. “And we found out he had two rhythm problems for him, one fast and one slow, and we were able to treat them both."

"He said you definitely need a pacemaker, and I said ok, good," said Curzon.

So, thanks to that sticker, the 89-year-old is now back to work, with a pacemaker, and peace of mind.

"I feel really good. I have much more energy," he said.

An additional advantage of the Zio Patch is that when a patient is done with it, they just mail it back to the doctor. They call it the Netflix of heart care. And they're recyclable.

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