AGH running trials for new device that could alert patients before a heart attack

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PITTSBURGH - A new technology that would alert someone the moment they start having heart trouble that could lead to heart attack is being tested at Allegheny General Hospital.

Channel 11's Jennifer Abney recently talked with Tim McCabe, who thought he had indigestion but was having a heart attack.

"It was just a total blindside to me. I wound up in the hospital that night, and they put me in cardiac care," McCabe said.

Doctors said McCabe needed peace of mind, to know he would be OK going back to normal daily activities.

"He was depressed and afraid to do anything. He was afraid to leave the house and afraid to go on walks. He was afraid to go back to work," David Lasorda, director of Interventional Cardiology at AGH, said.

The option for McCabe was the AngelMed Guardian. The device is designed for patients who have already had a heart attack.

It's an implantable device that monitors heart activity and signals an impending heart attack.

"It's implanted like a pacemaker. We make a small incision under the skin near the clavicle in the upper chest area," Lasorda said.

Lasorda said changes in an electrocardiogram will be picked up and will alert the patient -- like a pager, they will feel a buzz.

"Then I have to call the doctor for two buzzes and make an appointment to see them within a 24-hour period," McCabe said.

If the device buzzes five times, the patient must immediately call 911 because they could soon go into cardiac arrest.

"If it can be identified earlier and they can get to the hospital sooner, we can take care of the acute problem and save heart muscles and lives," Lasorda said.

AGH is part of a clinical trial for the device, and McCabe is one of six patients taking part. He said he's thankful for his "guardian angel."

"It gave me the peace of mind that I'm not waiting for the other shoe to drop. At least there's something else that's looking out for me," McCabe said.

The trial is scheduled to continue at AGH for at least another two years. Those who wish to become candidates for the trial should contact the Department of Cardiovascular Research at 412-359-6860.