Mechanical Heart Pumps Extend Survival

Left ventricular assist devices are used when drugs won't help heart failure

MONDAY, Nov. 14, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Mechanical cardiac pumps called left ventricular assist devices (LVADs) help prolong the lives of end-stage heart-failure patients who aren't eligible for heart transplants, a new study finds.

LVADs are implanted into the abdomen and attached to the left ventricle, then connected to an external controller and power supply worn outside the body. The devices are used when medications aren't able to strengthen the heart's pumping ability.

As reported Monday at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2005 in Dallas, researchers at Duke University assessed the Novacor LVAD in 55 end-stage heart-failure patients. Eighteen of the patients received intravenous medications and 37 received an LVAD. The patients were studied until they died.

Patients who received the LVAD survived much longer than those on medication, the researchers found.

"The average survival was three months in the medication therapy arm of the trial," study lead author Dr. Joseph G. Rogers, associate professor of medicine and medical director of the Cardiac Transplant and Mechanical Circulatory Support Program at Duke University School of Medicine, said in a prepared statement.

"Patients with the LVAD had a significant improvement in survival. The LVAD reduced the risk of death by 50 percent at six and 12 months and extended the average life span from 3.1 months to more than 10 months," Rogers said.

Two of the patients were on the device for more than three years. None of the LVAD patients experienced catastrophic pump failure resulting in death or the need for an emergency pump replacement, the researchers said.

More information

The American Heart Association has more about heart failure.

SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, Nov. 14, 2005
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