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Texas Heart Institute Physician Helps
Texas A&M Students
Develop Device to Help Heart Failure Patients

Project earns second place in annual Engineering Project Showcase

HOUSTON (May 7, 2014) - A team of Texas A&M University bio-medical engineering students, mentored and advised by Texas Heart Institute (THI) Director of Electrophysiology Clinical Research Mehdi Razavi, MD, took second place in the University’s annual Engineering Projects Showcase. The Texas A&M Showcase is a demonstration of small-team and individual undergraduate research projects, and is also a contest judged by A&M faculty and community experts. Dr. Razavi’s team spent the last nine months researching the design of a small, electronic, early-detection device to alert congestive heart failure patients about fluid build-up in their lungs so they can seek treatment before the condition warrants hospitalization.

Almost 5 million people in the United States are living with congestive heart failure (CHF), the leading cause of hospitalization for patients 65 years and older. CHF often causes pulmonary edema (PE), a build-up of fluid in the extravascular space within the lungs. PE causes shortness of breath and overall patient discomfort. Unless detected and treated early, the fluid build-up can progress and lead to costly re-hospitalizations and drug therapies to reverse the fluid build-up.

The increase of fluid in the lungs due to PE changes the overall conductive properties of tissue in the chest. Thus, the Personal Lung Fluid Analyzer (PeLFA) designed by the team noninvasively measures the bioimpedance of the chest to detect and alert patients   before they experience symptoms and fully develop PE, avoiding hospitalization. The device potentially could empower patients to independently monitor the progression of fluid build-up and make small changes in diet and medication, and thus help avoid hospitalization.

Prototypes of the device involved applying small electrodes to the skin near the base of the right lung, inputting a very small, constant electrical current through these electrodes, and then measuring the subsequent impedance, or resistance, of the chest tissue. This bioimpedance technology has minimal adverse risks and is very similar to the technique employed by handheld body fat percentage analyzers that are commonly available at fitness facilities and gyms.   

“The ability to detect fluid accumulation in a simple noninvasive manner on an outpatient basis will have a profound impact on our patients' outcomes,” said Dr. Razavi.

The team consisted of Ana Flores, Eric Gros, Michael Holtzclaw, Sandeep Kancharla, Zachary Paulson, and Phillip Simpson.  They were advised by Dr. Razavi and A&M Engineering Professors Dr. Duncan Maitland and Alan Brewer. The event involved more than 600 students on 150 teams. Currently, the team is completing a grant application for the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance’s BMEStart competition to try to receive further funding for refining the device for improved sensitivity, and for safety and effectiveness testing in a clinical setting. Eventually, the device will be tested for authorized clinical trials targeted toward FDA approval. 

For media inquiries please contact:

Director of Public Affairs
Texas Heart Institute
Frank Michel  ♦  832-355-9510  ♦ 

For THI media profile, see Public Affairs.

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