New device trial for heart failure patients in Scotland

6 February 2018        

Category: Research

Heart researchers at the University of Glasgow are using tiny injectable heart monitors to record the heart rhythm of 500 Scottish patients with heart failure, in a trial part-funded by the BHF.

A drawing showing where an implantable cardiac monitor is placed.

The tiny injectable cardiac monitor is the size of three matchsticks and easily inserted under the skin in the chest wall.

Professor Roy Gardner and his team at the British Heart Foundation (BHF) Centre of Research Excellence in Glasgow and the Golden Jubilee National Hospital will carry out a study where 500 heart failure patients in Scottish hospitals will be asked if they agree to trial a new device called an injectable cardiac monitor (ICM).

An ICM is a tiny device – about the size of three matchsticks stuck together – that can easily be implanted under the skin in a person’s chest wall to continuously record their heart rhythm over long periods of time. Patients participating in the study will be followed up by the researchers for at least two years to monitor their heart rhythm.

By the end of the trial, scientists hope to have a better understanding of the links between abnormal heart rhythm and other problems that might result in heart failure patients requiring hospital admission.

Around 48,000 people in Scotland are living with heart failure

Heart failure is a serious and debilitating incurable condition that can have a devastating effect on patients’ quality of life. Most commonly, heart failure is caused by a heart attack which causes damage to the heart muscle that can never be repaired. This means the person’s heart cannot pump blood around the body efficiently, with symptoms including fatigue, shortness of breath and fluid retention. Up to a third of patients admitted to hospital with heart failure will die within twelve months.

Many people with heart failure experience abnormal heart rhythms – which may be too fast, too slow or irregular – which can be dangerous or even fatal. However, most of the knowledge doctors have about these rhythms comes from a single ECG recording that can only give a snapshot of information. They need to understand more about these heart rhythm disturbances and what they mean for people with heart failure.

By recording the heart’s rhythm over a longer period, the research findings will help uncover whether abnormal heart rhythms precede – and therefore can help predict – problems that could cause a patient to be admitted to hospital, or even to die. If they are shown to be a warning sign, this could help doctors intervene and give treatments that might prevent deterioration for people with heart failure.

Professor Gardner said: “This exciting project, part funded by the BHF through a grant of £429,737, allows us to define heart rhythms remotely, and will increase our understanding of why people with heart failure die, or are admitted to hospital – information that is of fundamental importance to allow us to improve outcomes for these patients in the future.”

James Cant, Director at BHF Scotland said: “The good news is that increasing numbers of Scots are surviving heart attacks. However, that means more people than ever before are living with damaged hearts. Heart failure can be a devastating and frightening condition for individuals and their families, and there’s currently no cure.

“This research could help doctors to identify people living with heart failure who are likely to need further intervention before their situation becomes more serious. I’m delighted that the BHF is funding pioneering research like this in Glasgow that could have real benefits for the many thousands of people across Scotland and beyond who are living every day with the huge challenges heart failure can bring.”