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      New heart monitor hopes to give early alerts

      The Cardiology Center of Amarillo is participating in a trial study of a new heart monitor and alert system that gives patients advanced notice before a heart attack occurs.

      The AngelMed Guardian device is one Cardiac Electrophysiologist Dr. Coty Jewell said could be the difference in outcomes patients suffer after heart attacks.

      "It monitors the patient's heart rhythm, and with a heart attack you have certain changes in your EKG," he stated. "And those changes are detected and the patient receives a vibratory alert. This device is capable of looking at specific intervals in a heartbeat, measuring that interval hundreds of thousands of times per day and recording that and building a database of those beats to then compare back."

      Dr. Jewell is the only cardiologist in Amarillo who has been trained in implanting the device. He said the goal is to spread training to other cardiologists and cardiac electrophysiologists in town once the study has received some results.

      "Right now, it would be something that people could request. If you have the risk factors and criteria for inclusion in the study, we'd certainly look to implant somebody."

      The study began Monday, but no patients have yet been scheduled for the procedure. According to Dr. Jewell, the implantation could become a necessary step in treating people with heart disease, but right now the focus is researching the results that come from patients who have recently suffered heart attacks.

      "The patient population that this is directed for is a little more select in that you would have to have had a heart attack within the last six months," Dr. Jewell added. "And, mainly, the reason we're looking at that population is those are the people who are at the highest risk for a recurrence."

      A similar heart monitor is currently being used in Europe, Dr. Jewell pointed out, which is giving patients alerts anywhere from two hours to two days in advance. He said doctors are hoping to see the same results here.