Saturday, November 23, 2002

Heart device cuts deaths, hospitalization

Tests partly conducted here

By Peggy O'Farrell
The Cincinnati Enquirer

A national study has shown that a new device geared toward fixing faulty rhythms in failing hearts reduces deaths and hospitalizations as well as improving quality of life.

Guidant Corporation, based in Indianapolis, has announced that the COMPANION study - the Comparison of Medical Therapy, Pacing and Defibrillation in Chronic Heart Failure - has wrapped up after proving the effectiveness of the company's "ventricular resynchronizer," essentially a souped-up pacemaker that makes the left and right ventricles beat at the same time.

Guidant's are the first long-term implantable resynchronization devices shown to reduce hospitalization and death among advanced heart failure patients, said Dr. Michael R. Bristow of the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center.

Dr. Bristow co-chaired the study, which enrolled more than 1,600 patients at more than 130 centers, including University Hospital in Cincinnati.The study showed that deaths were reduced by 40 percent to 50 percent each in patients who received Guidant's devices versus standard drug therapies. Patients either received a resynchronization device, a resynchronization device with defibrillator or standard medical therapy.

"It doesn't cure heart failure, but it does make life so much better for patients," said Dr. Lynne Wagoner, director of cardiac services and the heart failure and transplant program at University Hospital. "There's not a compliance issue with this therapy. You don't have to worry about refills or the patients not taking the medicine."

Heart disease, which kills more than a half-million Americans each year, is the leading cause of death in this county.

More than 30 patients enrolled in the COMPANION trial through University Hospital.

In heart failure, a heart weakened by age, disease or injury gets flabbier as it struggles to pump blood throughout the body. Patients feel dizzy or faint because of lack of oxygen and everyday activity, even walking across a room, becomes more than they can manage. The two lower chambers of the heart stop beating together, weakening heart function further.

With the devices, three pacemaker wires are attached to the heart - two to the right side, as in traditional pacemakers, and the third to the left side of the heart, allowing both ventricles to be sparked to pump together.

The Guidant devices are designed to make the ventricles beat in rhythm so that the heart is less likely to wear out .

The Guidant devices were approved by the Food and Drug Administration earlier this year.

Medtronic Inc. has also developed a similar device.


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