A doctor at the Foothills Medical Centre is testing out a tiny wireless sensor in patients with heart failure to help improve their quality of life. 

The CardioMEMS, which is millimetres in size, is implanted into the pulmonary artery during a procedure that takes 30 minutes.

According to a news release, Alberta Health Services says the device, which cost between $17,000 and $18,000, measures pressure in the lungs, which is a marker of a patient's heart health.

Doctors receive daily reports of that patient's lung pressure, which allows them to detect early signs of deteriorating cardiac health. AHS says clinical trials in the United States have shown the sensor reduced the number of hospital visits in those patients.

Michelle Kotelko underwent open heart surgery in 2015 to have her mitro valve replaced, the result of a congenital heart defect.

In the years that followed, the now 35-year-old suffered extreme head pressure and abdominal pain and was a willing participant in the clinical pilot and have the device implanted in her.

"When (Dr. Brian Clarke) told me about the procedure, about the fact that you lay on a pillow for 10 to 15 seconds a day and it transmits a reading to his office, I was sold," said Kotelko. "Anything is better than what I am living with right now."

Dr. Clarke became the first physician in western Canada to implant the device in a patient with heart failure when he installed the CardioMEMS in Kotelko in September 2018. "The technology really is to give us an idea of objective data to the pressures to the heart and lungs and that really enables us to tailor their medical therapy."

Clarke says the device will not provide any physical benefit to the patient but it will provide invaluable information to physicians regarding potential concerns. "Heart failure is a very complex disease and requires a lot of surveillance and monitoring to prevent deteriorating or decompensating."

Clarke has implanted the device in five additional heart failure patients and the study aims to involve an additional nine patients, to bring the total to 15, prior to its completion in 2020.