A senior cardiologist has revealed that two new devices are now available to monitor recurrent blackouts, which can cause death in 10 percent cases and injuries in 30 percent of patients.
"Blackouts, that result due to dysfunction of certain brain cells, are sudden and lead to brief loss of consciousness. They are not the same as having a fall or suddenly tripping over," explained Suvro Banerjee, a senior consultant cardiologist of Apollo Gleneagles Hospital, said at a media conference here.
The most common cause for blackouts is transient interruption of blood supply to the brain or syncope, which in turn is a result of abnormal heart rhythms.
Blackouts lead to anxiety and depression, thereby affecting the quality of life.
"To prevent blackouts it's necessary to know the reason for syncope, and therefore monitoring heart rates becomes crucial," Banerjee said.
The prevalent syncope monitors are Holter monitors which monitor's the subject's electrocardiography (ECG) continuously. However, it needs the patient to be wired to a potable monitor and is uncomfortable for the patient to wear for more than a day or two.
"To tackle this problem two new devices, the External Loop Recorder (ELR) and the Internal Loop Recorder(ILR), are available," said Banerjee.
The ELR is a water-resistant microchip which can be pasted on the skin. It constantly monitors the ECG and sends the information to a distant heart station where the ECG is printed out.
"The heart station is located in Pennysylvania, US, and in Mumbai in India. The ECG report can even be e-mailed instantaneously to the physician," said Banerjee.
It is best suited for patients with a regular history of blackouts as it can be used for two weeks at a stretch.
"For infrequent events, say once in several months, we suggest the ILR, which is a microchip inserted within the skin under local anaesthetic procedures," said the cardiologist.
It can be used for up to three years. The device has a huge advantage as it monitors and records the activity of the heart six minutes prior to the blackout event as well as a minute afterwards.
"The patient is provided with an activator and when he or she feels the onset of symptoms, the patient can activate it," said Banerjee about the device, which is the size of a pen drive.
The ILR is priced at Rs.60,000, according to the doctor.
"It is cost effective as it prevents inappropriate therapy and related costs, and with growing awareness it will become common," Banerjee said.
The microchip is safe to implant and causes no reactions to the body.