You might have chest pain, a racing heartbeat or feel winded when you walk up the stairs. All typical symptoms of heart disease. But they could also be warning signs of pulmonary hypertension. It's not the hypertension or high blood pressure that's checked with a cuff. Rather, it's high blood pressure in your lungs. Doctors can't measure that pressure easily to see if medications are working. But now, doctors at Mayo Clinic are testing a new device that makes monitoring easier, possibly leading to better treatments for a disease that has no cure.
"I like being on the move. It just suits me real well."
The freedom of the road feels like home to trucker Nick Kirby.
"There's days you do a lot of driving. And there's days you do a lot of work."
And those work days - lifting, cranking, throwing chains to secure a load -- are a lot harder since Nick developed symptoms of pulmonary hypertension.
"It put everything in slow gear."
Any exertion makes Nick's heart race and chest heave. And sometimes even climbing into the cab makes Nick breathe a little harder. So Nick listens to his doctors.
"I'll take it at a nice slow pace."
If he doesn't, they'll know.
"This shows us the pressures 24 hours a day, seven days a week."
Nick has a device implanted under his collarbone that, through a thin wire, monitors pressure in the right side of his heart. This pressure matches that of his lungs. It's important because high blood pressure in your lungs can cause your heart to work overtime and eventually wear out. Dr. Michael McGoon says the hope is...
"To have an on-going, continuous, easily accessible stream of information about what people's pulmonary or lung blood pressure is."
That information may help doctors adjust medications to make them more effective. Giving hope to patients like Nick.
"We're good to go."
As he gears up for the long haul of life.
It's too early to tell if being able to constantly measure pressures in the lungs will help doctors treat patients more efficiently. But this device, called the Chronicle, gives doctors information they've never had before. Doctors have only been able to check pressures on some patients every few months with an echocardiogram. Or they check with an invasive procedure done in the hospital, but very infrequently. Hopefully the ability to constantly monitor pressures may eventually lead to a more effective treatment. For more information log onto http://www.medicaledge.org/2004july.html#4