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GREENSBORO, N.C. — Congestive heart failure is one of the most common reasons elderly people end up in the hospital. When this happens fluid builds up in the lungs and patients have trouble breathing. Cone Health is the first in the country to use a new technology to measure the amount of fluid in the lungs in the inpatient hospital setting.

“Now we have a device that lets us know in 90 seconds whether there is a lot of fluid there or not,” says Dr. Dan Bensimhon. Bensimhon is the director of the Cone Health Advanced Heart Failure Clinic in Greensboro.

That device is a vest, which uses ultrasound-based radar technology to measure the exact percentage of fluid in the lungs. Until this technology, doctors like Bensimhon relied on a physical exam to estimate the amount of fluid a patient might have.

“There are many causes of heart failure, but the final pathway involves getting fluid overload or getting fluid in the lungs,” Bensimhon said. Fluid in the lungs is also one of the most common reasons heart failure patients are readmitted to the hospital after being discharged.

April Michael has been seeing Dr. Bensimhon since 2004 and says knowing her doctors are using this new technology is comforting. “It eases my thoughts because now they know the exact number,” Michael said.

The vests were invented by an Israel-based company and cost $25,000 each. Bensimhon believes they could change the way everyone cares for heart failure patients. “If we can identify in the emergency room whether or not it’s fluid or not we may be able to save those patients from coming in the hospital and manage them more closely as an outpatient,” Bensimhon said.

Bensimhon, Cone Health and Triad HealthCare Network also plan on using the vests during every stage of a heart failure patient’s treatment. Bensimhon says this could including in the emergency room, before discharge, during home-health checkups and even in an ambulance.