New device can aid heart failure patients

September 19, 2010 8:06:33 AM PDT
Melvin Rice, 69, has a long history of heart attacks. However, his biggest heart threat came from what at first just seemed like a chest cold.

"When I woke up about a week later, was the first diagnosis I had of congestive heart disease," he said.

Melvin's doctor at the University of Houston helped develop as device called the Blue Scale, for patients like him. It can tell them when their hearts are failing.

"By holding onto it, a person, the user, can generate information that tracks the output of blood from their heart," said Dr. Clifford Dasco.

In just 10 seconds the Blue Scale reads heart rate, blood pressure, cardiac output, and tracks fluids.

Fluid retention is a key sign of a failing heart.

"They say it's like drowning. It's a terrible feeling of not being able to breathe," said Dr. Dasco.

Developers made the scale sturdy, and easy to use, for often-feeble patients.

"Falling is a major concern, so we put a lot of effort into making sure that the base is actually reinforced, and that these handles are large enough so that a person can use that to support themselves," said developer Nithin Rajan.

Melvin looks forward to having his own Blue Scale at home.

"You have an ability to predict those consequences that the machine will predict ahead of time, and even if it's one day at a time, that's a lifesaver," he said.

The Blue Scale is ready for production, but the creators are still waiting for final funding. They hope it will be covered by insurance, and could become as commonplace as a bathroom scale for heart patients.


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