Thursday, August 09, 2007

Mini-Motors For Your Heart

For patients with severe congestive heart failure, new innovative technologies seem to be developing rapidly, perhaps because heart failure represents a very common end-stage cardiac ailment and transplant donors are just too rare.

Recently, there have been a slew of new miniature pumps being developed for heart failure patients. One such device, recently implanted in the first human in Europe, is Synergy, a new left ventricular assist device from Circulite, Inc. The first patient was enrolled in their European Bridge To Transplant Feasibility Trial in June, 2007 with the first implant announced in a press release yesterday.

The technology is interesting on several fronts. First, the pump is of a remarkably small size and is designed to withdraw blood from the left atrium via the fossa ovalis, and pump blood into a subclavian artery.

This may permit an eventual percutaneous approach to implantation. Unfortuantely, it seems a portion of the device still resides outside the patient, making the potential for long-term use due to infection risks limited.

Nonetheless, the pump may offer an interesting left ventricular assist capability for patients with the most severe forms of heart failure.

My only criticism is on such early technologies is the marketing they do when a new gizmo is under development. Take, for instance, Circulite's video (downloadable here) that demonstrates the mechanism that the pump facilitates the heart. In the end, we see a moderately overweight smiling fellow looking like a terrorist bomber with the batteries strapped to his chest, throwing on his sport coat and jaunting off happily. Given that most of these sick pre-transplant heart patients can't even walk from their bed to the bathroom, could they please spare the feel-good shenanigans?


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