Abbott: Monitoring Heart’s Rhythm: Kate’s Story

Thanks to Confirm Rx™, Kate Carlson got the arrhythmia diagnosis she needed.

If you’ve ever had symptoms of arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat, you might have wondered what just happened.

Maybe you were shopping, suddenly you felt a pounding in your chest. Maybe you visited your doctor for an explanation. Maybe your doctor hooked you up to a heart monitor to check for any signs of arrhythmia — and maybe at that moment you weren’t having any symptoms. Everything sounded fine, so your doctor sent you home — with few answers and no arrhythmia diagnosis.

That’s what happened with 48-year-old Kate Carlson. Then an insertable cardiac monitor provided the around-the-clock heart monitoring she needed to get a diagnosis.

“I Knew It Wasn’t Anxiety.”

Carlson is a registered nurse who works in a hospital’s cardiac intensive care unit. She’d seen the effects of arrhythmia firsthand. For some time, she had an inkling that she had an arrhythmia, too.

In December 2017, she developed pneumonia; about three or four weeks later, she had her first episode. She was in the grocery store when her heart started to beat rapidly for several minutes.

“I had to move my cart, sit down and wait for my husband to come get me,” Carlson said. “I couldn’t stand because I was afraid of fainting.”

The episodes kept coming — at the mall, at work, while just living her normal life. One was so bad that she called an ambulance.

She was so unsure what her condition was that she started removing things from her life to see if they made a difference. She cut caffeine and alcohol out of her diet. She stopped taking her vitamins. She even stopped her beloved daily gym workouts.

She went to the doctor, of course, but she couldn’t reproduce the symptoms on demand. When the heart monitors showed a normal heartbeat, her physicians asked if she was maybe just stressed or anxious about something.

But she knew better.

“I knew it wasn’t anxiety,” Carlson said. “I felt like something was happening physiologically.”

Becoming Her Own Advocate

Fed up with the uncertainty, Carlson became determined to get the ConfirmRx™ insertable cardiac monitor, a device that tracks the heart’s rhythm remotely and sends data to physicians through a mobile app. The device, which is about the size of a paper clip, sits under the skin above the heart to monitor the heart’s rhythm, beat by beat. She was familiar with the device through her work as a nurse.

“I just wanted to know what my condition was,” she said.

Her doctors heard her plea. The procedure was completely painless, she said. The doctor used only a gentle local anesthetic, and she hardly felt any discomfort after it wore off. Doctors did use a liquid bandage to seal the incision site, but she said that didn’t place any restrictions on her activity.

Her care team showed her how to download the app to her phone, how to use it to enter her symptoms and how to send real-time heart data. The app records a patient’s symptoms as they experience them and monitors their heart’s activity on command — all at just the tap of a smartphone button.

And she did that just a week and a half later.

“I was sitting at the hair salon, and I could feel my heart beating really fast,” she said. “I opened up my phone, hit record, and sent it to my doctor.”

The Diagnosis That Helped Her Get Back to Life

Shortly after that, Carlson’s care team had the answer they needed. They were not only able to definitively give her an arrhythmia diagnosis, but they could also determine which chamber of the heart the abnormal rhythms came from.

“Since irregularities in a person’s heart rhythm can come and go unpredictably, remote monitoring with Confirm Rx plays an important role in diagnosis and determining a treatment path,” said Dr. Avi Fischer, divisional vice president of medical affairs for our cardiac rhythm management business.

After her diagnosis, Kate underwent an ablation procedure — a procedure that destroys tissue causing the heart to beat out of sync to help restore your heart’s regular rhythm — to help treat her arrhythmia.

Afterward, she chose to keep her Confirm Rx implanted for peace of mind. After all, the Confirm Rx is kind of like a nonstop surveillance system for the heart, and Carlson likes having the backup — especially since she’s back to her regular active lifestyle and daily workout routines.

“It’s comforting to have it in,” she said. “As a healthcare professional and a patient, I believe that many patients are grateful for as much information as they can obtain. The Confirm Rx monitor combines cutting-edge technology and essential diagnostic information. That has been so helpful for me, and I’m so happy that I have it.”