The first of the four British patients was too sick to walk across Westabys office before getting the heart-assist device nearly two years ago. Now, he routinely walks 5 miles a day. The FDA has approved the Jarvik 2000 as a bridge to transplant in the United States, but not for permanent use as in Britain.
The two other living patients report that their quality of life has improved dramatically. All were in class IV heart failure, the highest stage for severity of the disease, in which all daily activities bring on discomfort. After receiving the pump, patients could perform up to moderate or heavy exertion before experiencing chest pain or breathlessness.
The fluid retention caused by a failing heart disappeared in all three patients, the researchers write. In fact, after three months, patients were able to stop taking diuretics, the drugs commonly given to heart-failure patients to help rid the body of excess fluid. Also during the first three months, echocardiography showed improvement in the patients left and right ventricle function.
The American Heart Association estimates that about 4.8 million Americans are living with congestive heart failure (CHF), which kills more than 50,000 people each year in this country. An estimated 60,000 to 70,000 of all heart failure patients are thought to be in class IV, says Frazier. Most class IV patients are unable to do simple activities such as ironing clothes or making a bed because their hearts cannot pump enough blood to meet even slight demands.
Frazier says only about 2,000 hearts are available for transplant each year. He estimates that half of all class IV patients, or some 30,000 patients, could benefit from
Contact: Carole Bullock
American Heart Association