GRMC at the Forefront of Medical Innovation for Chronic Heart Failure

GRMC is not only on the cutting edge of acquiring new medical technology, but also in developing new technology. Thanks to William Craig, MD, board-certified interventional cardiologist and long-time member of the GRMC medical staff, Seguin is officially on the world map for research, development and implementation of a new system and procedure that provides early detection and rapid treatment of heart failure.

Dr. Craig has a long background in heart failure research, beginning during his military years in the 1980s. That background made him a perfect advisor to a Chicago-based medical innovations company named Endotronix. Five years ago, Dr. Craig began working with the company’s founder to develop the platform and physician interface for next-generation sensors that are surgically inserted in pulmonary arteries of patients with chronic heart failure. The sensor’s job is to identify and alert the patient’s physician when artery pressure decreases, a hallmark that the patient’s condition is worsening.

In the process of developing this wireless system, the company and Dr. Craig followed 50 patients over three years based on daily collection of data such as weight, blood pressure, oxygen level and heart rate. This study showed that early and regular tracking of these basic vital signs allows for timely management of medications and treatments—much more effective than simply depending on patients to recognize a change and go to the doctor.

In fact, the study achieved an 80% reduction in patients being admitted to the hospital for heart failure. For example, one female patient had been admitted 16 times over a two-year period prior to enrolling in the study. With the data-tracking program, Dr. Craig was able to quickly identify and respond to her heart changes, leading to zero hospital admissions over the past three years and an ability for her to reclaim her life and become socially active again.

On the technological end, the development team finalized and received FDA approval for the pulmonary artery sensor last spring. The first implant in Texas was performed in December 2020, right here at GRMC, by Kevin Nguyen, MD, cardiac interventionalist. Since that time, more than 100 such procedures have been performed around the world at over 90 sites, mostly at well-known academic university settings such as UCLA, Northwestern, Emory and Houston Methodist.

Nevertheless, GRMC remains the leader in number of cases performed and in being recognized by the program proctors for having the most well-prepared staff and efficient site. Dr. Nguyen is now training other hospitals around the world on this groundbreaking and lifesaving technology, and has further innovated the procedure with an improved approach.