Date: 2/12/2007

St. Mary Medical Center sets pace in heart monitoring

HOBART — Cardiac patients with defibrillators now have home monitoring systems available to them through the Electrophysiology (EP) Lab at St. Mary Medical Center. Previously, remote monitoring systems had been limited to those patients with pacemakers enrolled through clinical trial at the hospital. These remote monitoring systems act as a safety net — linking the patient to the hospital, their physician and the Electrophysiology (EP) Lab clinicians — and, reduce the number of trips made to the doctor’s office.

While these remote defibrillator monitoring systems are only available through the EP Lab at St. Mary Medical Center, Community Healthcare System doctors and their patients, as well as others under their care elsewhere, have access to this new technology.

Defibrillators are miniaturized, electronic devices that are implanted to help regulate the heartbeat of heart failure patients, patients with arrhythmias, and those at risk for Sudden Cardiac Death. The device delivers an electrical shock to the heart in order to correct heart rhythm disturbances. Some five million Americans currently are living with congestive heart failure and a significant number of them are at risk for Sudden Cardiac Death, requiring an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator or ICD for protection. These numbers are on the rise, according to the American Heart Association.

In the past, patients with ICDs would need to check in to their doctor’s office for routine quarterly maintenance and follow up. Critical information is collected during these appointments including blood pressure, heart rhythm and function, and weight. Variances in any one of these areas may be an indicator that the heart’s condition has changed or deteriorated.

With an increasing demand for implantable device quarterly maintenance appointments at the physician’s office, remote monitoring offers a permanent, convenient safety net — a direct lifeline to the doctor’s office, 24 hours a day, seven days per week.

Mark Dixon, D.O., Scott Kaufman, D.O. and Raghuram Dasari, M.D. are physicians on staff at all three hospitals of the Community Healthcare System: Community Hospital in Munster; St. Catherine Hospital in East Chicago and St. Mary Medical Center. They specialize in cardiac electrophysiology or malfunctions of the heart’s electrical signals. Through persistence and participation in clinical trials at St. Mary Medical Center, they have made strides in the way heart rhythm conditions are treated. Early research studies featuring biventricular pacemakers and defibrillators have played an important role in the development of remote wireless technology for these devices.

“Through cardiac research and new technology, we’ve been able to make great strides in the field of electrophysiology,” Dixon said. “Throughout the 90s and into the early 2000s, we found ways to implant devices with minimal intrusion into the body through a small hole in the chest cavity. Then, we found ways to make them more convenient for the patient, more accessible to us through remote monitoring. We’ve been checking our pacemaker patients via wireless technology for about 10 years, and now it’s our defib patients’ turn.”

Remote monitoring of ICDs is the Internet-based wireless service that enables medical professionals to manage care of patients from a distance. Two monitoring systems are currently being utilized by St. Mary Medical Center to check patients — Boston Scientific’s Guidant Latitude® Patient Management system and more recently, Medtronic’s Carelink® Service. Both systems offer the same advantages and benefits however, Guidant’s system must be used with Boston Scientific implant devices and Medtronic’s Carelink is only compatible with Medtronic implant devices. This new technology is proving to be a marked advantage in terms of convenience and saving time for hundreds of heart patients.

“We are happy to be able to offer this technology to our heart patients because it demonstrates our doctors and EP Lab staff are moving forward with research to make sure our community has access to every available option for battling heart disease,” says Milt Triana, administrator at St. Mary Medical Center in Hobart.

The patient monitor is connected to a standard telephone line in the home. Data from the cardiac device is transmitted via the Internet back to the clinic for review. The patient simply waves a wand over the implanted device (Guidant Latitude system) or stands near a receiver connected to the Internet (Medtronic Carelink system). Information about their medical condition is immediately sent over the Internet to be reviewed by the physician.

Patients with Medtronic Carelink wireless technology systems are advised to set up the devices on a bedside table. This close proximity to the device enables staff to retrieve important information from their ICD during the middle of the night while the patient is sleeping.

Patients who have Guidant Latitude systems with the wand use it to transmit vital information during the same, regularly scheduled appointments as they would at their doctor’s office, but from the comfort of their own home.

Data is transmitted via the Internet to a central monitoring station at St. Mary Medical Center where the information obtained is analyzed by nurses and clinicians. Physicians can determine if there has been any new rhythm disturbance, check the integrity of the device/leads or if the patient has received a shock.

“We can check if there was therapy, if the patient has been shocked or if the battery needs to be replaced,” says Chris Atherton, regional manager for EP Services for Community Healthcare System.

More heart patients than ever before have been benefiting from new technology and advances in treatment provided by the hospitals of the Community Healthcare System.

“Community Hospital in Munster; St. Catherine Hospital in East Chicago; and St. Mary Medical Center remain dedicated to research,” Dixon says. “They are the leading research centers in the area…there is no other hospital system in the area that does nearly as much research as Community Healthcare System. We do things within these four walls that even university centers in Chicago don’t get to do.”

Community Healthcare System’s hospitals are working together to improve the quality of heart care in Northwest Indiana. Physicians at Community Hospital, St. Catherine Hospital and St. Mary Medical Center are involved in a number of national research initiatives, offering new treatment options for area patients. To learn more about research available through the Community Healthcare System, call 219-852-6295 or for a listing of open clinical trials go to

Community Healthcare System Cardiovascular Research Foundation continues to work to make our communities heart healthy through clinical trials and studies. Donations are vital to help support this effort. Contributions are tax-deductible, and may be made in honor or memory of a loved one or in general. Please make checks out to: CFNI. Mail check to: Development Office /Community Foundation of Northwest Indiana, 905 Ridge Road, Munster IN 46321. Donation forms are available online by visiting