When a patient’s cardiovascular disease becomes so severe that a heart transplant is indicated, the main task is to stay alive until a suitable heart is found. When too few donor hearts are available, that could be a long, agonizing wait. One of the methods used to increase a patient’s chances of living long enough for a transplant is the implantation of a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) to help the damage heart pump blood.
A group of researchers in Cardiovascular Ageing and Heart Failure within the Institute of Cellular Medicine at Newcastle University, has just published the results of a study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology that found that the devices along with medication can restore full heart function in some patients without resort to a transplant.
The study consisted of 58 men with heart failure, some of whom were fitted with LVADs. They were compared to a control group of 97 healthy men. Both groups were subjected to a treadmill test with a mask designed to measure oxygen utilization.
The result was that 38 percent of the men who had been fitted with LVADs had recovered enough to have them removed, having been restored to full heart function.
Follow-on research will identify what the markers are that would indicate that the device will be of benefit to a particular patient. That research will be of assistance to health care providers in determining which patients would benefit from having the LVADs implanted and then removed, and which ones still need to wait for a transplant.
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