Breath test to diagnose heart failure


CLEVELAND, Ohio – By definition, heart failure means your heart cannot pump enough blood and oxygen to support all your other organs.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than five million people have it and 55,000 people die from heart failure every year. Now, a simple breath test could make it easier and faster for doctors to diagnose.

From India to China, Australia to Europe, Pat Patwardhan is an international business man.

"I've been to Paris at least 40 times, but who's counting," he said.

Even though Patwardhan still watches the financial world closely, there are other numbers he has his eyes on, like his blood pressure and weight. He's suffering from heart failure.

"It came to me like a shock," he admitted.

Early diagnosis can help people live longer, but most people are not diagnosed until after a heart attack happens.  Now, doctors at the Cleveland Clinic are working on a simple breath test that could identify heart failure right away.

"Everything that's in our blood that is potentially volatile; we'll end up in detecting it in the breath," explained Raed A. Dweik, MD, director for the Pulmonary Vascular Program, Respiratory Institute at the Cleveland Clinic.

It includes specific markers of heart failure.

Patients blow into a breath capture device.  Within minutes, the molecules in the breath are analyzed.

"Five of those peaks could 100% tell whether a patient has heart failure or not. This is really a big deal," said Dweik.

 "It's exciting news," added Patwardhan.

Now that he knows what's wrong, Pat's managing it and moving forward.

"You live on your adrenaline. You take the next opportunity and you go with it," Patwardhan explained.

He was included in a small research study at the Cleveland Clinic that found the breath test to be 100 percent accurate. Despite those results, more research must be done before the test is available to the public.

Heart failure costs the nation more than $34 billion each year to diagnose and treat. Doctors hope this test will cut back on those costs, allowing patients to take the test at the doctors' office or even in their home.

Additional Information:

Heart failure is a chronic, progressive condition in which the heart is unable to pump enough blood to meet the body's needs for blood and oxygen.  At first the heart will try to make up for this by enlarging, developing more muscle mass, and pumping faster.  The body also tries to compensate in other ways.  For example, the blood vessels narrow to keep blood pressure up, trying to make up for the heart's loss of power.  The body diverts blood away from less important tissues and organs to maintain flow to the most vital organs, the brain and heart.  These measures mask heart failure, but don't solve it.  When heart failure continues, these processes no longer work.  The body's compensation mechanisms help explains why some people may not become aware of their condition until years later.  (Source:  www.heart.org)

TYPES OF HEART FAILURE:  The heart's pumping action moves oxygen-rich blood as it travels from the lungs to the left atrium, then on to the left ventricle, which pumps the blood to the rest of the body.  In left-sided heart failure, the left side works harder to pump the same amount of blood.  There are two types of left-sided heart failure and drug treatments are different for the two types, systolic failure and diastolic failure.  Systolic failure is when the left ventricle loses its ability to contract normally.  Diastolic failure happens when the left ventricle loses its ability to relax normally because the muscle has become stiff.  The heart's pumping action moves "used" blood that returns to the heart through the veins through the right atrium to the right ventricle.  The right ventricle then pumps the blood back out of the heart and into the lungs to be replenished with oxygen.  Right-sided heart failure occurs as a result of left-sided failure.  Finally, there is congestive heart failure.  Congestive heart failure requires timely medical attention.  As blood flow out of the heart slows down, blood returning to the heart through the veins back up, causing congestion in the body's tissues; usually resulting in swelling.  (Source:  www.heart.org)

NEW TECHNOLOGY:  Hospital readmission rates are under increased scrutiny because Medicare payments will be cut for healthcare systems with higher than expected readmission rates for certain diagnoses, including heart failure.  Recent studies show that the 30-day readmission rate after heart failure hospitalization was 24.8 percent across the U.S.; 61 percent of the cases were readmitted within 15 days of hospitalization.  Cleveland Clinic researchers have now identified heart failure in patients by using exhaled breath analysis.  They study revealed a non-invasive test based on patients' unique breath-prints is able to distinguish between people with heart failure and people without.  The findings suggest a new way to understand heart failure and better identify people who may be at risk for hospital readmission.  "While additional examination is needed to determine the true potential of breath analysis for heart failure identification in our patients, we're very encouraged by these results.  The ability to identify patients with heart failure using a breath test has the potential for broad application due to its non-invasive nature and ease of application.  These exciting new observations may lead to future studies to determine how to best utilize these information to reduce heart failure re-hospitalizations," Raed A. Dweik, MD, director of Pulmonary Vascular Program, Respiratory Institute at the Cleveland Clinic, was quoted as saying.  (Source: my.clevelandclinic.org)