Heart failure device tested for first time in U.S. - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports


Heart failure device tested for first time in U.S.

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A six-minute walk test in the halls of a hospital tells doctors a lot about the condition of Janet Wickham's heart. Janet lost her mother and great grandmother to diastolic heart failure. She assumed that by the time she was at risk there would be new treatment options, unfortunately, there aren't.

Janet Wickham says, "I'm not where I'd like to be and times fly by and I keep saying I'm 69, you know what's happening with all this? You know what's out there? What's new? but there hasn't been anything."

Doctors say treatment for diastolic heart failure has been very disappointing over the last three decades. They tried old tricks like the one used for systolic hear failure,but unfortunately, none of them worked.

Diastolic heart failure means Janet's heart pumps fine, but doesn't relax enough to fill us completely between beats, which causes blood to back up and build pressure in her lungs.

Dr. Rami Kahwash says, "This is when the patient starts having shortness of breath. Other than diuretics, we don't have any way of dealing with the patient's symptoms."

But a new approach could change that. Janet became the first patient enrolled in the U.S. to possibly test this new dime size implant.

During a heart catheterization, doctors punch a small hole in the wall of a patient's heart and use this inter-atrial shunt to keep it open, so excess blood can drain from one side to the other.

Dr. Kawash says, "It's just like when you have a traffic jam, and instead of backing up all the way back to the lung, you create kind of detour that takes you around the lung."

That's expected to relieve pressure and allow the heart to work better. During this first ever randomized trial, enrolled patients will undergo the cath procedure. Half get the device, the other half didn't. Patients and their doctors aren't told until the trial is complete who got it.

Janet doesn't know if she did, but is happy doctors are testing new options her family never had.

Janet Wickham says, "I'm wanting to feel better, And what will be will be, but if there's a chance of something I want to try it."

Locally, doctors and health professionals offered their opinions:

  • Erlanger Health System's  Dr. Alison Bailey says "I am familiar with the trial. It's a small trial looking at diastolic heart failure patients and enrolling  world-wide. It's a potential new way to treat a very challenging group of patients who don't have a lot of options currently."
  • Dr. Allen Atchley, a cardiologist at the Chattanooga Heart Institute says, "Although encouraging, this is a very small study on an investigational device that will need more research before routine use can be determined."
  • Ashley Brown, the spokesperson for Parkridge Medical Center says, "Parkridge is not participating in this trial, but their cardiology director says this seems like a promising technology!" 

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