Congestive heart failure is a condition in which the heart is weakened and is unable to pump
enough blood to the organs of the body to meet the demands of the body. At times there may
be a buildup of fluid in the lungs, legs or other parts of the body. The accumulation of
this fluid has been shown to affect the resistance to flow of the electrical impulses
generated in the heart. The purpose of this study is to correlate measurements to the
passive flow of electricity generated by the heart within the chest (as measured by the
Optivol TFS System) with measurements of the volume of blood in the body.
Congestive heart failure (CHF) affects 5 million people in the United States, with an
additional 550,000 cases diagnosed each year. Despite major recent strides in treatment, a
diagnosis of CHF still carries significant annual morbidity and mortality. The resultant
economic burden associated with the management of this disease has been estimated at $40
billion per year, with 60% - 75% resulting from inpatient management(1). Emergency room
visits, frequent outpatient encounters and the hemodynamic monitoring and intensive care
associated with inpatient management contribute significantly to this total cost.
Current outpatient heart failure management programs focus on lifestyle changes,
pharmacotherapy, and disease awareness, emphasizing self identification of signs and
symptoms of volume overload. Despite the best efforts of all involved, frequent unscheduled
visits to the outpatient clinic or emergency department remain common, even in those
patients participating in formal management programs. Accurate identification of elevated
filling pressures and intravascular volume prior to the significant worsening of symptoms
remains an elusive goal of management.
Although elevated jugular venous pressure and the presence of a third heart sound have been
shown to have prognostic value in patients with heart failure(2), physical exam findings of
elevated filling pressures do not reliably correlate with invasive hemodynamics(3).
Invasive measurement of filling pressures and cardiac output with a pulmonary artery
catheter has been the gold standard for hemodynamic assessment for decades. However, this
method carries significant inherent risks of placement and maintenance and is not
well-suited for frequent assessment in the outpatient setting. Development of a method that
would accurately and reliably identify hypervolemia and elevated filling pressures prior to
the onset of symptoms may allow earlier intervention and have a significant impact on
quality of life, morbidity, and mortality in patients with CHF.
Blood volume analysis has been used for over 100 years in the assessment of plasma volume
and red cell mass. Earlier techniques relied on dilution of various dyes and were based on
the concept that the concentration of a known quantity of dye was inversely proportional to
the volume of blood into which it was injected. Later, using the same concept, 51Cr labeled
red blood cells and 125I labeled albumen, were developed to measure the red cell and plasma
compartments respectively. Although the dual isotope method is considered the gold
standard, it is cumbersome and requires at least 6 hours for completion.
A newer, highly automated method using 131I labeled albumen and serial hematocrit
measurements (BVA-100, Daxor Corp. New York, NY) has been shown to correlate well with the
dual isotope method requiring only 1 ½ hours for completion (Dworkin et al, unpublished
data). Additionally, this method can automatically compare measured blood, plasma and red
cell volumes to norms based on the sex, weight and height of the patient in the manner of
Feldschuh and Enson(4).
Using this method, Androne et al(5) found that 65% of nonedematous CHF patients had
unrecognized hypervolemia. More recently, anemia has been shown to be a poor prognostic
marker in CHF. In a separate report, Androne et al(6) found that 46% of anemic CHF patients
had dilutional anemia vs. 54% with true anemia. The success of targeted therapy may depend
on determining whether anemia is dilutional or due to reduced red cell mass. Despite this
method's accuracy, it is not practical for the serial measurements required to proactively
intervene in a CHF population.
Transthoracic impedance cardiography (ICG) relies on changes in transthoracic electrical
impedance when alternating currents are applied across the thorax. Derived measures include
stroke volume, cardiac output and thoracic fluid content. Although earlier studies have
validated the use of this method in the assessment of intrathoracic volume(7), there have
been conflicting results in regard to the correlation of cardiac output (CO) derived from
transthoracic ICG and that obtained from more traditional methods such as thermodilution,
indicator dye-dilution and the Fick method(8). In addition, the cumbersome nature of serial
data acquisition and the realization that derived hemodynamic data may be affected by lead
placement make this method less attractive in the ambulatory setting.
Intrathoracic impedance is similar to transthoracic ICG in that it relies on changes in
impedance as a surrogate marker of volume status. The technique measures impedance from a
right ventricular lead to a pacing/defibrillator case. The technique is not subject to the
operator dependent variability of ICG and is well suited to serial measurements in the
The Optivol® system developed by Medtronic (Minneapolis, MN) employs proprietary software
(TFS) that collects and averages impedance values during a specific time period each day to
produce the Daily Impedance Value. The TFS software then derives and stores the Daily Mean
Impedance, Reference Impedance, and Cumulative Difference from the Daily Impedance Value.
The use of predetermined thresholds for the Cumulative Difference from the Daily Impedance
Value can provide an early warning of increasing thoracic fluid. This data is accessible to
health care practitioners through periodic download in the clinic via interrogation or
through Medtronic's web-based CareLink system.
Abraham et al(9) demonstrated that TFS trends are consistent with clinical fluid status in a
small group of patients. In addition, a recent study by Yu et al(10) found that
intrathoracic impedance is inversely related to pulmonary capillary wedge pressure, and
begins to decrease days before the onset of symptoms of CHF.
While data derived from the Optivol® system appears to mirror intrathoracic fluid content,
and is useful for determining trends, certain shortcomings remain. First, though changes in
intrathoracic impedance may inversely mirror changes in thoracic fluid content, the system
provides no absolute reference standard to determine euvolemia in an individual patient.
Secondly, it is unclear whether certain concomitant conditions (anemia, COPD) can affect the
- Patients ≥ 18 years of age with NYHA II-IV CHF of at least six months duration who
have been implanted with a device capable of serial intrathoracic impedance
measurement (Optivol®) will be recruited.
- Patients implanted with an Optivol ®device will be eligible for enrollment six months
- Women of childbearing potential may be included if they have a negative urine
pregnancy test at the time of enrollment and agree to use effective contraception
throughout the study and for 1 month following their participation
- Thoracotomy within previous 3 months
- Chronic pericardial or pleural effusion
- Serum albumen < 2.8 g/dL
- Women who are pregnant or lactating
- Inability or unwillingness to maintain adequate contraception(women of childbearing
potential) for the duration of the study and for 1 month following their
- Inability to give informed consent