While-you-wait implantable heart assist device appears effective

DALLAS, May 28 A new implantable device that gives failing hearts a boost while patients await a heart transplant appears to be reliable and safe, researchers report in todays rapid access issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

The study followed the first 10 U.S. heart failure patients implanted with a new generation of the left ventricular assist device (LVAD) known as the Jarvik 2000. The left ventricle is the chamber of the heart that does most of the work to pump blood into the body.

The device is a bridge-to-transplant step for people waiting for a new heart. The patients (seven men and three women, average age 51) were in severe heart failure and facing imminent death in intensive care units. They were also too physically small to qualify for any of the other bridge-to-transplant left ventricular assist devices, says O.H. Frazier, M.D., lead investigator for the device that has been under development for more than a decade at the Texas Heart Institute and St. Lukes Episcopal Medical Center in Houston.

The study found that the Jarvik 2000 increased the hearts ability to move blood through the body (cardiac index) considerably by 43 percent within 48 hours of implantation. Drugs to support the heart muscles contraction became unnecessary.

Eight patients underwent physical therapy and improved from severe heart failure (New York Heart Association Class IV) to mild heart failure (NYHA Class I). Although the study protocol required the patients to remain at the hospital, they were able to resume normal activities such as walking outdoors and eating in the cafeteria while awaiting a transplant. The device was used for an average of 84 days.

This article follows another study published in Circulations May 14 issue in which Frazier and Stephen Westaby, Ph.D., M.S., implanted the Jarvik 2000 as a non-bridge therapy in four patients in the United Kingdom who were not eligible for transplant. Three of the

Contact: Carole Bullock
American Heart Association

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