Heart attack early warning device in clinical trials

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Imagine being able to know you're about to have a heart attack. A clinical trial is giving a Valley couple a new lease on life.

“The first heart attack, I was at a job site in Queen Creek,” Bill Harris said. “They put one stent in the left side and they sent me home in a couple of days. In the middle of the night I started having pains.”

Last fall, 70-year-old Harris couldn't believe what was happening. In a matter of days, he had suffered two heart attacks. Doctors had to insert four stents to open up his arteries.

“I was pretty much surprised and didn't expect that at all,” Harris said.

A surprise his wife couldn't believe either.

“We have always been active,” Sharon Harris said. “His weight is appropriate for his height. He doesn't smoke. We have a pretty darn good diet, so I just never thought this would really happen.”

So when Harris got back up on his feet, his wife was still a little nervous about him doing basic things.

“Initially I did not want him driving,” she said. “I didn't want him walking further than the mailbox because I was afraid he was going to have another heart attack.”

Well she isn't afraid anymore since her husband enrolled in a new clinical trial called ALERTS. The study is looking at an implantable device made by Angel Medical Systems that will notify patients’ hours before they feel their first signs of a heart attack.

“So what this device does is it's like a pacemaker that sits right underneath your skin below the clavicle,” Dr. Ashish Pershad said. “It's hooked up to the heart , to the right ventricle electrically and it's able to pick up electrical signals from the heart and those electrical signals sometime can be a fore warning before the actual symptoms of a heart attack happen.”

Pershad is with Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center. He is the principal investigator in the clinical trial. His hospital and Banner Heart are the only two facilities in the southwest participating in the study. 

“So time is muscle and we try to get to get to the heart and get the artery opened up as early as possible,” Pershad said. “So the sooner we get there, we're obviously impacting mortality. But more importantly impacting quality of life because the heart muscle function is still intact.”

The device starts to vibrate when it detects heart problems. There are two possible alerts. One is considered not serious and tells you to call your doctor and the second one is much more serious.

“If there is an emergency then it begins to vibrate very rapidly with very sharp pulses and then the red light comes on,” Harris said.

While still only in the clinical trial phase, the device is definitely helping the Harris’ rest a little easier.
“I think it's an exciting study,” Sharon Harris said. “It gives me a lot of confidence that he can go back to his life and have an active life and continue to work full-time.”

More information at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center - 602-839-5784 or at Banner Heart Hospital - 602-839-5784.