New Tool Helps Detect Heart Disease Early

(NECN/KNSD: Greg Bledsoe) - Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the American Heart Association.

Heart problems have long been difficult to catch early. Now, there is something very small that is making a huge difference in diagnosing those problems.

Dr. Steven Higgins explains that certain lines on an EKG can detect a problem.

But figuring out exactly what was wrong with 89-year-old Ken Curzon's heart took some time.

"And I had a lot of tests, but they never could detect that I had a slow beat and then a fast beat," Curzon said.

It was never detected, because for more than 60 years doctors have been using the Holter Monitor.

The Holter Monitor was designed to record a heart beat for up to 48 hours, looking for irregularities. But it can't get wet, and it's not exactly comfortable.

"Clumsy. The earlier one was kind of like carrying a camera around all the time, hanging down here," Curzon said.

So doctors had Ken try the Zio Patch.

"It kind of surprised me because it's so small," Curzon said.

The 2 x 5 inch patch can wirelessly record heart beats for about two weeks at a time.

"To put it simply, it's a big bandaid with two little electrodes on the corners," Dr. Higgins said.

Doctors at Scripps Health recently studied it on 285 patients, including Ken Curzon.

"The monitor allows you to check out the heart's rhythm over a longer period of time, and we found out he had two rhythm problems for him, one fast and one slow, and we were able to treat them both," Dr. Higgins said.

"He said you definitely need a pacemaker, and I said ok, good," Curzon said.

Thanks to that sticker, 89-year-old Ken is back to work, with a pacemaker, and peace of mind.

"Great. I feel really good. I have much more energy," Curzon said.

The other advantage of the Zio Patch that when a patient is done with it, they just mail it back to the doctor. They call it the Netflix of heart care. And they're recycle.

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