First to Implant FDa Approved CardioMEMS

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Special to the Citizen:

On January 15th, 2015, Athens Regional cardiologist, Dr. Jared Griffis, F.A.C.C., and the Athens Regional Catheterization Laboratory team performed the first FDA approved CardioMEMS implant procedure in the state of Georgia. Winder resident and heart failure patient Billy Johnson was the first recipient of this life-changing technology.

The CardioMEMS technology from St. Jude Medical, provides home pulmonary artery (PA) pressure monitoring using a small pressure sensor permanently implanted in the pulmonary artery via a minimally invasive procedure. Patient initiated sensor readings are wirelessly transmitted to the patient’s clinicians to access and review. Directly monitoring PA pressure not only enables early detection of worsening heart failure, but also allows clinicians to proactively manage treatment and medication changes.

“We’re proud to be the first hospital in the state to offer this truly innovative monitoring system primarily because it allows us to better serve our patients,” Dr. Griffis said. “The CardioMEMS system increases the quality of life for our patients who suffer from heart failure by allowing us to monitor them daily and adjust their therapies as needed. In doing so, we minimize the number of times they have to be admitted to the hospital.”

Johnson, 71, suffered a massive heart attack in 1994. Since having triple bypass surgery he has suffered from the effects of congestive heart disease and lived every day at high risk of complete heart failure.

Heart failure occurs when the heart is unable to pump enough blood to meet the body’s demands and blood pressure within the heart is elevated. Significant heart failure progression over a period of days is known as acute decompensation and leads to hospitalization.

In November, 2014, Johnson was admitted to Athens Regional Medical Center on three different occasions over a six week span due to recurring heart failure symptoms. “Athens Regional Health System made a significant investment in our world class team of cardiologists and the CardioMEMS system because it’s the right thing to do for our patients. Our mission is to improve the lives and health of those we touch. This innovative, medical advancement supports that mission,” said Dr. Chuck Peck, President and CEO of Athens Regional Health System.

“I would have laughed if someone told me I’d make it to 70-years-old back in 1994. Thanks to the doctors, nurses and this technology at Athens Regional, I’m feeling good about making it to 80,” Johnson said. About Athens Regional Health System Athens Regional Health System is one of Northeast Georgia’s largest health care systems. Comprised of an acute care facility with 350-plus beds, four urgent care centers, a quality network of physicians and specialists, a health maintenance organization and a home health agency, Athens Regional is a progressive health care system committed to excellence and dedicated to improving the health, wellness and quality of life of our communities. The cornerstone of the Health System is Athens Regional Medical Center.

Athens Regional is a regional referral center, offering services such as maternal/child, advanced imaging, minimally invasive surgeries, an American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer approved oncology department and a nationally recognized cardiovascular program.

Athens Regional was recently recognized for the second time as a TOP 100 hospital in the nation by WomenCertified; among the best hospitals in the region for gastroenterology, pulmonary and surgical procedures according to US News and World Report; and named the 2011 Large Hospital of the Year for the State of Georgia by the Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals. Athens Regional is the only locally owned and governed hospital in the region it serves. For more information, visit

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