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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 May 2006, 12:02 GMT 13:02 UK
'Easy fit' pump for heart disease
Surgeons can insert heart pump through an artery in the groin
A new heart pump can be fitted without open heart surgery
Scientists have developed a mechanical heart pump that can be fitted without invasive surgery.

Traditional cardiac pumps have to be inserted with open heart surgery which can be risky in heart disease patients.

But the new pump, created by experts at Brunel University, is inserted into the heart through an artery in the groin.

As well as increasing blood flow to the heart, the pump relieves pressure on the heart itself by pumping oxygenated blood to the other organs in the body.

Cardiovascular pumps have been proven to extend the lives of patients with severe heart disease.

But the major surgery involved in fitting the pumps is potentially dangerous.

The technique to insert the new pump, which is only 4mm wide and 10cm long, is similar to the way in which stents are placed in blocked arteries.

"Existing pumps require full open heart surgery to insert and so can't be easily removed if they're not needed or if they malfunction."
Dr Ashraf Khir, Brunel University

The pump is mounted on a stent and then fed on a deflated balloon through an incision in the groin into the upper aorta, a large artery that carries blood from the heart.

As well as helping the left ventricle - the heart's main pumping chamber - to pump newly oxygenated blood around the body the device is also designed to increase blood flow to the cardiac muscle itself.

It is powered wirelessly via coils placed on the skin attached to an external battery pack.

Heart disease

Heart disease is still the UK's biggest killer.

In 2005, one in five deaths in men and around one in six deaths in women were caused by heart disease, including heart attacks, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics released last week.

Dr Ashraf Khir, from the Institute of Bioengineering at Brunel University, developed the pump alongside Dr Michael Henein, of the Royal Brompton Hospital.

"Dr Henein and I are developing this pump to try to sidestep the traditional downsides of existing pumps - that they require full open heart surgery to insert and so can't be easily removed if they're not needed or if they malfunction."

Dr Khir said the team had a patent for the pump and were in talks with a couple of manufacturers with a view to bringing it to market as soon as possible.

Dr Henein added: "I had the idea for this pump when I observed that the most successful heart failure medication worked by reducing the pressure on the ventricle.

"But this medication does not always work in all patients and may carry side effects.

"I wanted to produce a pump that reduces pressure on the ventricle as an alternative to the medication."

Alison Shaw, medical spokesperson for the British Heart Foundation said: "This is a very interesting new technique for treating patients with severe heart failure.

"Mechanical pumps to assist the heart require major heart surgery to be fitted which is not without risk.

"This new technique using an incision to the groin area could help reduce this risk and could possibly benefit patients in the future."

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