Device Plays Back Heartbeats

A new device the size of a credit card is helping those who suffer from chest pain or an irregular heartbeat, reports Correspondent Sandra Maas of CBS affiliate KFMB-TV in San Diego.

"There are a number of patients who have heartbeat rhythm problems. They feel fast heart beats, or skipped heart beats and by the time they get to the emergency room or come to the office, it's gone," says cardiologist James Perry.

Timing is everything when it comes to diagnosing cardiac conditions and the "HeartCard" made by Alaris Medical Systems in San Diego can pinpoint the problem as it happens.

"It's frustrating for the physician and the patient because they feel sometimes they're crazy," says Kathleen Brooks of Alaris Medical Systems. "But when you can actually see what the heart is doing at the time symptoms occur, you either rule out cardiac problems or you can say, 'This is something that needs treatment,'"

Patients need only to press a button, apply the card their chest, and the card records a modulated tone of their heartbeat. After the recording is made, it is sent over the phone line to a doctor. The "electrocardiogram" allows the doctor to monitor irregular heartbeat rhythm for a two-week period.

Akeem Ala-Jowwon of the Houston Rockets found the HeartCard reassuring. Doctors were able to easily monitor his heart condition. The size of the card made it easy for him to carry on the go.

"This is basically the size of a credit card. Keep it in a backpack at school, wallet, or purse," he says.

The card must be prescribed by a physician and is covered by many insurance companies.