A military-grade vest, using radar technology, may be the answer to keeping some heart patients out of the hospital.
The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center is the lead in a national trial for a SensiVest, which monitors fluid build-up in the lungs. Until now, doctors haven't had a non-invasive way of checking the amount of fluid.
"The problem is most of the time we guess at the best dose for the water pill," says William Abraham, director of the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine. "This technology takes the guesswork out of that assessment."
In the case of 59-year-old Kenny McIntyre, it might be life saving.
"One day I didn't feel right, and I woke up the next day and went to the hospital and that's when they told me, when they brought me in to take some weight off, that's when they told me you have congestive heart failure," McIntyre says.
After doctors drained 60 lbs. of water weight two different times, McIntyre starting wearing the vest. He only has it on 90 seconds a day, and medical personnel can download his data.
The vest uses radar to see through the chest and track the amount of fluid in the lungs. Then a sensor uploads the patient's fluid readings.
"The old-fashioned way where we waited until patients were more symptomatic and getting worse and already on their way into the emergency department or hospital, now we can head this off before patients even know that they are getting worse," Abraham says.
Nearly 6 million adults in the U.S. suffer from heart failure, and because of the dangerous buildup of fluid in the lungs, more than half end up back in the hospital in six months. A smaller study of the vest technology showed re-admissions were cut by 87 percent in the first three months of use.