New device could save people with heart failure

By Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects
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ORLANDO, Fla. - Heart failure is the fastest growing cardiovascular disorder in the U.S., affecting more than six-million people. It occurs when a person's heart is too weak to pump and circulate blood in the body. However, now a new device that gets on your nerves could help save those with heart failure.

 For years taking a walk was a tough task for Laquita Fossitt.

 "I just felt out of breath, tired, and weak," Fossitt said.

 At age 35, she was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. Two decades later, she was told she needed a transplant.

"Some days I didn't even want to get up," Fossitt explained.

But thanks to a new nerve stimulation device for the heart, she has a new option.

"I think it's a very promising therapy," said Dr. Kishore Ranadive, a cardiologist at Orlando Heart Specialists.

Ranadive says the CardioFit device helps the nervous system come into balance, which is needed to regulate the heart.

"The device is to kind of optimize that system by stimulating the nerve in the neck," Ranadive said.

The device is implanted in the chest and consists of a sensor lead that monitors changes in the heart and a stimulation lead that's attached to the vagus nerve.

"We slowly increase the current based on the response to the heart rate," Ranadive said.

It helps patients improve their symptoms. Five months post-surgery, Fossitt is up doing things she couldn't do before.

"It has gotten better," Fossitt explained.

Patients take anywhere from 6 to 12 weeks to respond to treatment.

CardioFit is already approved in Europe and is undergoing clinical trials in the United States.

Additional Information:

Congestive heart failure is a condition that occurs when the heart can't pump out enough oxygen-rich blood to the rest of your body. It's often a long-term condition but symptoms could come on suddenly. It may affect only the right side or only the left side of the heart. Blood may back up in other areas of the body and fluid may build up in the lungs, liver, gastrointestinal tract, arms, and legs. Heart failure affects more than 6 million people in the United States and is the fastest growing cardiovascular disorder. (Source: National Institutes of Health)

CAUSES: Heart failure can be caused by a narrowing of the small blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the heart. Another cause is high blood pressure that is not well controlled. This can lead to stiffness and muscle weakening. Coronary artery disease can also be a cause. When plaque builds up in the arteries, less blood can reach the heart, causing it to work harder. Heart attacks can essentially kill parts of the heart muscle which were starved of oxygen, making the heart work more to compensate for the lost muscle. Even lung disease can be a cause: if the lung's ability to provide enough oxygen to the body is impaired, the heart has to compensate by pumping more blood. (Source: American Heart Association)

NEW TECHNOLOGY: The CardioFit nerve stimulator acts almost like an implantable pacemaker. It's placed under the skin of the chest and consists of a stimulator, a sensor lead, and a stimulation lead. The sensor lead monitors changes in the heart and a stimulation lead is attached to the vagus nerve, which can trigger the parasympathetic nervous system when stimulated. The parasympathetic nervous system has been shown to be able to reduce heart rate, which in turn reduces the workload on the heart. Current to the nerve is increased based on the response of the heart rate. The CardioFit can be programmed on and off with external wireless communication. It can take about 6 to 12 weeks to respond to the treatment. Vagus nerve stimulation has also been proven to be effective in treating epilepsy and depression. There's one vagus nerve on each side of the body, which runs from the brainstem through the neck then to the chest and abdomen. (Source: Dr. Kishore Ranadive)

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