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St. Mary Medical Center First in Bucks County to Offer Aquapheresis Therapy
New advanced therapy improves quality of life for patients with fluid overload.

LANGHORNE, Pa., April 14, 2010 – St. Mary Medical Center recently announced the addition of Aquapheresis Therapy, making it the first hospital in Bucks County – and only one of four hospitals in the Philadelphia area – to offer this advanced treatment. This new inpatient treatment greatly improves quality of life for patients who are experiencing fluid overload, or an excess of sodium and water in various locations in the body, that may not respond effectively to more traditional forms of treatment.

Excess fluid buildup is a common complication of heart failure, certain diseases of the kidneys and lungs, and some surgical procedures. Fluids can accumulate in the legs, arms, or abdomen and eventually may invade the lungs, causing breathing difficulties. Aquapheresis therapy uses the Aquadex FlexFlow™ Fluid Removal System, an ultrafiltration process to mechanically remove the excess water and salt. From a central intravenous line, blood is pumped into the Aquadex FlexFlow™ system, which filters and removes excess fluid before blood flows back to the patient. The system successfully removes the fluid during treatment while maintaining a patient’s blood pressure, heart rate and electrolyte balance.

“Reducing fluid overload through Aquapheresis Therapy allows patients to breathe more easily, enjoy greater mobility and experience a greater sense of well-being,” says Thomas Nicosia, DL, FACHE, Cardiovascular Service Line Administrator at St. Mary. “Studies have shown that ultrafiltration therapy succeeds for most patients who have not had success with traditional treatments, including diuretics. In addition, Aquapheresis Therapy results in reduced length of hospital stays, a lower incidence of rehospitalization, and fewer emergency department visits. We are extremely pleased to be able to offer this advanced treatment to improve quality care and patient outcomes. ”

Congestive heart failure, a progressive condition in which the heart muscle becomes weakened, is the leading cause of fluid overload in which excess fluids can build in various parts of the body, causing weight gain and swelling in the legs, arms, and abdomen, as well as congestion in the lungs that results in difficulty breathing. Traditional treatments for fluid overload include a low-salt diet, fluid restriction, diuretics, and other drug therapies to remove the excess sodium and water, achieve the patient’s normal weight, and relieve symptoms. Aquapheresis therapy may be recommended after treatment with diuretics and dietary modifications have failed to provide adequate relief.

“Approximately 90 percent of heart-failure admissions are due to fluid overload and of these patients, approximately 30 percent have developed a resistance to diuretic therapy,” Nicosia said. “Aquapheresis therapy is part of our ongoing effort to offer leading-edge technology in providing the highest standards of care to benefit our patients.”

Aquapheresis complements traditional forms of therapy and provides a non-drug treatment option, reducing side effects patients can experience with the use of diuretics, including reduced kidney function, loss of electrolytes, and increased risk of hospitalization and hospital readmissions because of congestive heart failure. In addition, physicians have the ability to regulate and adjust the amount and rate of fluids being removed during treatment, allowing a gradual reduction in fluid level that won’t negatively impact a patient’s blood pressure, heart rate or electrolyte balance. Studies also have shown that aquapheresis can improve the effectiveness of oral diuretics for patients who take them on an ongoing basis.

“Aquapheresis is evolving into the standard of care for patients who have fluid overload and are not getting relief from diuretic therapy,” says Sharon Brown, RN, MSN, Director, Cardiovascular/Rehab Services. “The system does not throw off the balance of electrolytes in the patient’s body and is a more efficient, comfortable treatment option.”

James Denny of Croydon, who has congestive heart failure, was the first patient to receive aquapheresis therapy at St. Mary. About 9 pounds of fluid was removed from his body. Denny, who was treated with diuretics previously, found the ultrafiltration system to be quicker and more comfortable because the treatment did not require frequent bathroom trips.

“I feel great, full of life,” says Denny. “The extra fluid made me feel down and sluggish. I feel stronger today, my appetite is better, I can breathe easier, and I am in a better frame of mind.”

The acquisition of the Aquadex FlexFlow™ system was made possible through a donation from the Community League of St. Mary Medical Center, a volunteer organization whose philanthropic efforts support the hospital in providing the highest quality of medical care.