Wearable radar technology originally developed for the Israeli military is now being tested by doctors at Ohio State to better detect signs of patient heart failure at home.

Until now, cardiologists haven’t had a simple way to proactively monitor patients at home for fluid changes in the lung, a possible sign of congestive heart failure. The standard has been to rely on patients weighing themselves daily and reporting symptoms such as swelling or shortness of breath. By then, it could be serious enough to require treatment in the hospital, says Dr. William Abraham, director of the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center.

“With heart failure, the heart isn’t strong enough to keep up with the body’s needs and fluid stays in the lungs and too much fluid makes it hard to breathe,” Abraham says. “We’ve learned these methods don’t catch the disease progression early enough, and that’s why hospitalization and re-hospitalization rates for heart failure have changed very little in the last 20 to 30 years.”

Ohio State medical researchers are conducting a clinical trial with patients wearing a web-enabled vest that also features radar technology that was first used by the military and rescue teams in Israel to see through walls and rubble in collapsed buildings.

The results are promising, with an 87% reduction in heart failure hospitalizations when using vest lung fluid monitoring.

The vest measures fluid inside the lungs from outside a person’s clothing and could be a new way to prevent repeated trips to the hospital for the nearly six million patients living with heart failure in the U.S., Abrahams says.
The vest, created by Israeli medical wearables developer Sensible Medical, allows radar to go through the chest wall via the vest and obtains an accurate measurement of water inside the lungs. The results are then uploaded by a web-enabled monitor connected to the vest and delivered to the patient’s electronic medical record.

Ohio State researchers launched a small pilot in 2015 with the five-year old wearable radar technology and now Wexner is expanding the trial nationally at about 40 other healthcare locations. “We can use that data to see when the lungs are trending towards being too wet and make adjustments to the medication on an outpatient basis or over the phone,” says Dr. Rami Kahwash, director of the Wexner Heart and Vascular Research Organization. “The goal is to keep the patient within a normal range, feeling well and out of the hospital.”

Patients in the clinical trial wear the vest over their clothes and use the lung fluid monitor at home to take daily readings that each last about 90 seconds. The data from each reading is uploaded online to the patient’s electronic health record where the results are reviewed by a cardiologist or nurse.

The results are promising, with an 87% reduction in heart failure hospitalizations when using vest lung fluid monitoring, Wexner says.

The vest has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for personal purposes but has not yet been endorsed by the FDA for more widespread use in a medical practice until the clinical trials are done and practice guidelines have been developed, Kahwash says.

Researchers didn’t say what a wearable and radar-enhanced patient vent costs but did note “the cost of the vest will be comparable to current devices used in remote hemodynamic monitoring, with the advantage that the vest is reusable and does not require an implant procedure which will reduce the overall cost.”

It’s also unclear if the cost of the vest will be covered by health insurance. But going forward Ohio State medical researchers do say the remote patient monitoring and wearable vest technology does have potential to help better monitor other types of chronic conditions for patients at home.

“Within healthcare, the vest is currently being investigated in the remote management of patients with heart failures in the outpatient setting,” Kahwash says. “Its use may potentially expand to assist in appropriate triaging of patients who come to the emergency room with shortness of breath and in guiding inpatient heart failure therapies.”