Mechanical pump could help heart recover, shows new research

11 April 2017        

Category: BHF Comment

A person clasping their hands over their heart

Fitting patients with a mechanical pump to work alongside their heart could be a potential new treatment for serious heart failure, according to new research carried out at the University of Newcastle.

The study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, followed 58 patients fitted with a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) to help their heart keep pumping blood around their body. All of the patients’ hearts had failed to such an extent that they were struggling with day to day tasks. 

LVADs are normally used as a ‘bridge to transplant’, meaning that patients are fitted with a device to improve their quality of life, and keep them alive whilst waiting for a heart transplant

However, this exciting study found that after an average of 396 days the LVADs improved heart function for some patients, with 16 well enough to have the devices removed. A number of these patients had recovered to such an extent that their heart function was as strong as healthy volunteers when running on a treadmill. 

With the study suggesting LVADs could be used as a treatment in their own right, the researchers now plan to carry out further research to better identify the patients that benefit most. 

‘Hope’ for people living with heart failure

Responding to the study, our Associate Medical Director, said: “Severe heart failure is a devastating condition in which patients can often have a worse life expectancy than many cancers. There is no cure; the only option for many is to be put on the heart transplant waiting list.” 

“This research is extremely encouraging and shows that there may, finally, be hope for people who are living with advanced heart failure. But it’s vital we continue funding research into repairing damaged hearts, so that all heart failure patients can benefit, which is why we’re investing £7.5million into regenerative stem-cell based treatments to help save even more lives.”

Living with an LVAD

More than half a million people in the UK are living with heart failure, but with no way of reversing the condition, survival rates have not improved for over a decade. 

LVADs already make a huge difference to the patients that receive them, often completely removing the most serious symptoms of heart failure.  However, living with an LVAD can be a tough experience as Jim Lynskey, the youngest person in the UK to be fitted with an LVAD describes in this video.

Mending Broken Hearts

Through our Mending Broken Hearts Appeal, we’re determined to use your donations to fund research that will find a cure for heart failure. 

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