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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 May, 2005, 23:03 GMT 00:03 UK
Patient gets heart 'turbocharger'
Image of the heart
The device helps propel blood from the heart to the body
A New Zealand patient has become the first to be treated for heart failure with a new turbocharger pumping aid.

The implant, called a C-pulse, consists of a balloon that inflates after each heart beat to squeeze the blood in the main blood vessel that exits the heart.

The battery-powered device deflates again and the cycle continues, boosting blood flow around the body.

The 56-year-old man fitted with the turbocharger earlier this month is doing well, reports New Scientist.

Pump power

The team from Auckland City Hospital have approval to operate on five more patients with moderate heart failure as part of a pilot study.

After three months, they will use questionnaires to check whether the treatment has improved the patients' quality of life and use ultrasound scans to monitor whether the device has improved their ailing hearts.

Heart failure affects at least one in 100 people in the UK, and is responsible for one in 20 admissions to hospital.

The condition limits the heart's ability to pump blood, and symptoms include breathlessness, fatigue and ankle swelling.

These symptoms can be treated with drugs, but sometimes artificial pumps need to be inserted to take over the work of the failing heart or the patient may be given heart transplant.

Safety

In theory, the turbocharger should be less risky than heart pumps currently used because it does not come into direct contact with the blood, artificial heart specialist at Harefield Hospital in London, Christopher Bowles, told New Scientist.

For example, it should mean fewer blood clots.

It remains to be seen whether the aorta can withstand this mechanical stress over a long period of time
Professor Peter Weissberg from the British Heart Foundation

Inventor William Peters said: "The bigger risk will be if we get an infection on the [artery] cuff."

In trials on 26 sheep, seven of the cuffs became infected, two seriously.

Professor Peter Weissberg from the British Heart Foundation said: "This is an interesting development.

"For many years doctors have used balloons inserted inside the main artery of the body, the aorta, to assist failing hearts.

"The technique used in New Zealand is based on a similar principle, but doesn't require anything to be introduced inside the aorta.

"Instead, by being wrapped around the aorta, the C-Pump compresses it from outside, in effect forming a second pump in series with the heart.

"However, it remains to be seen whether the aorta can withstand this mechanical stress over a long period of time.

"And, as the authors point out, any device that uses internal wires attached to batteries outside the body will be at risk of serious infection."




SEE ALSO:
GPs could give heart failure test
09 May 05 |  Scotland
Heart pump trial launched in UK
15 Oct 04 |  Health


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