Lost: 30 Pounds of Water Weight ... Found: A New Lease on Life
Article Date: Jun 7, 2010
Just outside her hospital window, Joanne Lindsey can see the sun shining and hear the birds welcoming spring with their beautiful song. But all she can do is watch and listen – for she’s stuck in a hospital bed all weekend, hooked to a machine.
Still, Joanne says she hasn’t felt this good in a long time. For the past 20 years, she’s been in congestive heart failure. Recently, things took a turn downhill – and Joanne came to Alegent Health for answers.
“I said, ‘I’ve got to do something for myself, if I don’t I’m going to die’, the fluids are going to take over me,” explains Joanne.
Fluid build-up is a common, yet painful and debilitating, symptom of heart failure. Diuretics – or water pills – weren’t helping. When she first saw Alegent Health Clinic Nephrologist Michael Aaronson, fluid was oozing from her legs.
“The heart doesn’t pump blood as well as it should because it’s in heart failure and everything gets backed up into the rest of the body,” explains Dr. Aaronson. “That’s why people have fluid in their arms and their legs.”
Dr. Aaronson and Joanne’s cardiologist agreed on a treatment that would get rid of that excess water and give her back her life. It’s called Aquapheresis – a therapy similar to dialysis, only for the heart. Rather than remove toxins from the body, Aquapheresis removes excess water.
The secret to safety, Dr. Aaronson says, is the speed of the process. By removing the fluid slowly, doctors can avoid stressing the heart or kidneys. Typically Aquapheresis removes about 355 milliliters of fluid from patients in a given hour. Joanne shed about 500 milliliters – the equivalent of a pop bottle – every hour during her stay at Bergan Mercy. That added up to a loss of about 30 pounds of water weight in just two days.
Alegent Health Cardiologist Joseph Thibodeau says the procedure is safe – and a whole lot healthier than prescribing more and more pills.
“In the past, we would have increased the doses [of water pills] higher and higher, we’d even brought patients into the hospital to use IV doses at high levels,” says Dr. Thibodeau. “What we found was that at those high levels, water pills could get the fluid out but we were causing other problems, like kidney problems, which was worsening the heart failure in the long-term.” Now, thanks to Aquapheresis, patients who don’t respond to the medication have another option.
That’s not necessarily the end of the options for patients. Alegent Health offers the therapy as an inpatient service – meaning you’ll have to stay the night – at three hospitals: Bergan Mercy, Immanuel Medical Center and Lakeside Hospital. But, if you’d rather receive treatment during the day and be in your own bed at night, Bergan Mercy and Immanuel Medical Center have started offering Aquapheresis as an outpatient service, too.
Joanne’s case was so severe that she opted for the hospital stay. But she may not need to return. Because Aquapheresis helps the diuretics work again, she might only need the treatment once. For now, though, she’s ready to get back to her life – ready to get back to spoiling her grandchildren.
If you would like more information on Aquapheresis or to find a physician who is right for you call 1-800-ALEGENT or go to www.alegent.com/aqua.
Great article and very nicely presented. I find it interesting that the nurse was in isolation gear but the MD in the room standing 3 feet from the pt was not. Maybe he did not touch the pt and she was in contact isolation. With all the emphasis on handwashing, where does following isolation protocols come in to factor?
We checked back with Dr. Aaronson for an answer to your question, and for starters, he'd like to thank you for the astute comment!
Since he was only there for filming that day, and was not examining the patient, recent national guidelines do not require that he wear a gown. However, even though he did not touch anything in the room, he admits that he SHOULD have worn gloves per Alegent Health policy, which was set in place to help prevent the spread of infection.
Also, though it was not a part of the story, Dr. Aaronson DID wash his hands thoroughly after leaving the room and, as you can see in the video, those who examined the patient were following CDC guidelines by wearing a gown and gloves as well as keeping their hands washed.
You can read more about the CDC's glove guidelines here: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dhqp/ar_mrsa_healthcareFS.html.
Thanks for the question and your interest in this topic!
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