The Smart Magazine About Medical Technology Innovations

#31 - Emergency Medicine

Military Technology Goes Medical

Defense-sector radar designed to see through walls is now used in a vest that detects congestive heart failure long before patients become symptomatic.


In the United States, 5.7 million adults are living with heart failure, and half of them return to the hospital because their condition is not well managed. Excess fluid in the lungs is far and away the most common cause of readmission.

Dr. William Abraham, director of Cardiovascular Medicine at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center told MedicalExpo e-magazine:

We ask patients to weigh themselves and look for signs and symptoms. But these are late-stage manifestations, when the horse is already out of the barn. There is an urgent need for techniques that permit earlier detection of excess fluid to keep patients out of the hospital.

Using Radar to See Behind the Chest Wall

Sensible Medical, an Israeli firm, may have found the solution. Its SensiVest™ uses the company’s ReDS™ radar technology to identify excess fluid in the lungs of heart failure patients. This permits early intervention and reduces hospital readmissions. The vest can be used at home or in a medical facility.

Courtesy of Sensible Medical

Courtesy of Sensible Medical

The radar-based technology was developed by the military to see through walls or search for survivors in the rubble of collapsed buildings. Sensible miniaturized the system and adapted it to identify the build-up of excess fluid in the lungs.

Abraham has been using the vest at his medical center. “The vest shows us when the lungs are becoming too wet, permitting us to adjust a patient’s medication before the patients are aware of symptoms.”

Testing for excess fluid requires donning the vest for just 90 seconds a day. Readings are uploaded automatically to a cloud server. When readings cross a threshold, providers are notified so that they can make medication changes. Abraham added,

This could give our heart failure patients a far better quality of life than they have with current technologies.

 Clinical Trial Underway

Abraham is heading a national, randomized clinical trial of the FDA-approved vest at 40 sites across the United States. The goal is to see if it effectively monitors and manages lung fluid, reduces hospitalizations and improves quality of life. Patients using the vest will take daily readings at home. So far, 50% of the 380 patients targeted for recruitment have been enrolled. Sensible Medical compensates Abraham for his time as trial chair.

Avoiding Hospital Readmission

SensiVest™ could provide economic advantages. Preventing hospital readmissions for heart failure patients is of great interest to Medicare, the public medical insurance program for Americans over 65 years of age. In 2011, congestive heart failure was the leading cause of readmission for Medicare patients. According to a study by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality this resulted in total costs of $1.5 billion.

About the Author

Laura Newman is a New York-based medical writer that writes frequently about medical technological advances and health policy. She writes for the medical trade press, national health entities, and health care insurers.

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