My Equipment

Things I use for cardiac monitoring and related activities

(Updated 19-May-2013)


Introduction

I've suffered from chronic heart disease as long as I can remember. In the beginniing, my choices as far as heart monitoring were basically limited to taking my pulse and measuing my blood pressure. The first time I went into AFib I had no idea what was happening other than the fact my heart was racing for no apparent reason, I was sweating profusely, and felt lousy. It was late at night, during the holiday season, etc., etc., so I took a 'wait and see' approach. Yes, the smart thing would have been to call '911', my doctor, or whoever was on call, or have someone take me to the hospital emergency room. Instead, what did I do? Nothing! Foolish?...of course. Typical?... yes, I'm afraid so. The next day my heart rate hit 150 bpm and was still climbing. I called my doctor (New Year's Eve as I remember) who had me come in immediately. I was given medication via I.V. and eventually my heartrate dropped to around 80... I was in AFib (Atrial Fibrillation). It was this event that motivated me to develop the EKGwatch monitoring system. Unfortunately, the key component of the system was pulled off the U.S. market soon thereafter and that was the end of that. Fortunately the technology has improved significantly since then and much better, FDA approved EKG monitors are now readily available from major retailers.

 

 


Equipment I use... why and how


SFO Medical Model PC-80B Portable ECG

  PC-80B_Amazon_Link  
 

 


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Video the PC-80B LCD screen whole replaying my EKG (V5)

PC=80B's analysis of the EKG

When I look at this recording I can see that I'm still in AFib (as indicated by the irregular heartbeat}, am throwing frequent PVC's (those large peaks and valleys in the waveform), and that my average heart rate is well within the safe range (69 bpm in this case). When I first started monitoring my heart, I'd panic and fax the doctor anytime my EKG showed anything other than a steady sinus beat. He'd explain to me what was significant and what wasn't. Of course he was obligated to suggest that I come into the office for a regular 12 lead EKG, just to be 100% sure that everything was OK. Obviously this isn't always practical or even possible.

The PC-80B analyzes the data and displays a screen like the one above when it it finishes recording or playing back an EKG. You'll note that it detects and reports the irregular heartbeat, which can be indicative of a serious problem, but doesn't specifically mention the PVC's, which are usually benign. The 'sad face' indicates that medical attention is indicated. A 'happy face' on the other hand indicates that no significant health risk was detected. Of course it is always advisable to seek medical attention whenever you feel something is wrong. The PC-80B or any EKG monitor as far that goes is NOT a substitute for a trained medical professional, it's simply a tool. Ask your doctor if he thinks it would be useful in your case. Record EKG's when you feel good, and when you feel something isn't quite right, heart wise and review them with your doctor. Have him show you what is significant and what isn't and most importantly, ask him if he thinks self monitoring is beneficial in your case and what to do with the results; i.e. under what circumstances should you seek medical care.

In the old days, with my hardware and software the only practical way I had of sending my EKG to my cardiologist for interpretation was to connect the heart monitor to a computer, generate a PDF file of the stored reading and faxing it to him. Things are so much simpler now. While the PC-80B has an optional computer interface and proigram for generating the EKG just as I used to do, a much simpler approach is to simply record a video of the screen with your smart phone and attach it to am Email... no computer required. Here is a sample of what I am talking about. This is an ECG I made of my own heart using the PC-80B. I made the video by holding an iPhone 4 a few inches above the PC-80B's LCD screen and playing back the stored EKG. I sent it to . One great advantage of this approach is that the doctor and / or his staff can receive it anywhere... home, office, or half way around the world at any time, effectively being 'on call' 24 / 7. The email, complete with the doctor's reply can be stored automatically and become part of the patient's permanent record. One of the doctors I see encourages the use of Email and will usually reply himself, or forward the message to his office staff, (PA's, nurses, or other doctors) and within the hour I'll receive a reply.

Devon Medical Model PC-68B Pulse-Oximeter
  PC-68B_Amazon_Link  
 

 

I suffer from a mild form of Sleep Apnea . I've never been able to adjust to wearing a CPAP mask, so use a nasal canula connected to an Oxygen Concentrator. Frequently I'll get up to go to the bathroom and forget to put the canula back on. This results in my SpO2 levels dropping... not a good thing. SpO2 lower than 90% is defined as acute respiratory failure. Without my oxygen I've seen mine drop as low as 86%. SpO2 levels are usually measured with a Pulse-Oximeter. There are many inexpensive ones on the market, but they usually don't have an alarm fuction... not much use for the Sleep Apnea patient. What I needed was a Pulse-Oximeter with a setable alarm that would sound and wake me up if my SpO2 levels dropped too low (below 90%). In addition, I needed one that would sound an alarm if my heart started beating too fast or too slow. In my case, with AFib, there was always the danger of it speeding up too fast (which would usually happen if I forgot to take my medication or too slow if I took too much). The first instrument I bought had the necessary alarms, but was large which made sleeping and getting up when nature called, difficult. I'd end up taking it off when I got up and forgetting to put it back on when I came back to bed. I finally found the PC-68B, a Pulse-Oximeter watch that I could wear on my wrist, had the necesssary alarm functions, and an optional computer interface for plotting my heart rate and SpO2 levels over time. More expensive, but far more practical.

 

 

Ab Doer Twist

  ABDoer_Amazon_Link  

 

Plain and simple, I hate to exercise. As of late I've had foot trouble which made walking long distances impossible. Unfortunate, since walking was about the only exercise I was getting. I searched the internet for some sort of home exercise equipment that didn't require you to use your legs (bad knees, arthritic ankles) or feet. I Obviously treadmills, stationaly bikes, step aerobics, etc.were out. Just recently I found the 'Ab Doer Twist'. It's fun to use, doesn't require you to use use your legs, and as quality exercise equipment goes (the thing is built like a tank with a heavy gage steel support structure), it is reasonably priced. I've only used it a short time, so not much to report as far as its effectiveness. I will write more once I've had more experience with it. I can say that I feel better after using it. For a guy that hates exercising as much as I do, that is quite an endorcement.

 

 


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Page Updated: 2011.12.16