Hot-Wiring Failing Hearts
May 24, 2010
TAMPA (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- If you’re
one of the 5 million Americans living with heart failure, you know that
simply waking up is tiring enough to send you back to bed. Now doctors are
testing out a new device for heart failure that's already been successful in
lowering blood pressure. The hope: Recharge hearts without any drugs.
Chuck Cummings loves to show off his pictures: shots of a young navy man in
the prime of his life. He managed to maintain the energy of his military
days, until a few years ago when he was diagnosed with heart failure.
“I used to like to wash the car, and by the time I was done washing the car,
I was too tired to do the interior," Cummings told Ivanhhoe.
Doctors said Cummings' blood pressure was too high, preventing his heart
from pumping enough blood to the rest of his body. That’s when his wife,
Anne, found a clinical trial to “hot-wire” his heart.
"I guess my wife must like me, because she
wanted to keep me around, and she started searching the internet for
anything she could find on heart failure and came across this trial,"
Cummings was the first heart failure patient to have the device implanted.
Surgeons insert a battery pack -- no bigger than an iPod -- under the
collarbone and place electrodes around the carotid artery in the neck. When
the pack pulses, the electrodes stimulate the artery, telling the brain to
relax the heart -- which can then fill up with enough blood and pump
“It’s like a switch, on and off," Fadi Matar, M.D., director of the Cardiac
Care Unit at Tampa General Hospital in Tampa, Fla., told Ivanhoe.
In an earlier trial to combat high blood pressure alone, the device helped
patients on average lower their numbers from 180 over 158 to 105 over 87, in
"What we're trying to do is improve the quality of life without necessarily
taking tons of pills because medications," Dr. Matar explained. "They have
their own side effects."
After three months with the device, Cummings doesn't take any heart
medications and hopes to keep it that way.
“I seem to have a little more energy," he said. "I can be on my feet longer,
So now those long walks with his wife … aren’t so long anymore.
The batteries in the device need to be changed every two years. Centers
across the country are still enrolling for the heart failure trial.