Heart failure patients who suffer from moderate to severe symptoms can live longer thanks to synchronized therapy from implantable devices.
Cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) is effective enough to lengthen the expected life span of patients who suffer from heart failure, a new study revealed today. The treatment is particularly helpful for people with worsening symptoms who have not responded well to conventional treatment and have moderate to end-stage heart failure. CRT involves synchronizing and re-setting dangerous heart rhythms which are commonly triggered by this condition.
Heart failure affects some 5.8 million people in the United States, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Underlying conditions such as coronary heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure can cause heart failure, a condition where the heart muscle becomes so weak that it is unable to pump oxygen-rich blood to the body. Potentially lethal heart rhythms may also result because of the damaged heart.
Doctors usually treat heart failure with drugs alongside lifestyle changes on the part of the patient to manage the condition, which has no permanent cure. When symptoms are severe enough, cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) can be initiated to take over the heart's innate electrical signals and pumping action to control symptoms such as shortness of breath. This can be done by inserting a pacemaker-like device called a defibrillator just below the collar bone and under the skin.
In the study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, and presented in a meeting in Washington by the American College of Cardiology, CRT-D (cardiac resynchronization therapy with a defibrillator) improved survival rates and minimized the number of heart failure events after an average follow-up at 2.4 years and long-term follow-up at 7 years for 1,818 patients. The data shows that patients with a left-bundle branch block who received CRT-D had a 40 percent reduction in death rate compared to those who received a defibrillator alone.
The findings, funded by Boston Scientific Corp., support the goal by doctors to intervene earlier in heart failure cases with newer techniques like CRT instead of just waiting for a lethal heart rhythm to develop and let a defibrillator deliver a painful shock to patients. Resynchronization is thought to result in better cardiac efficiency and patients who have received this therapy report having less severe symptoms and a higher quality of life.
According to a separate study, heart failure is the leading cause of hospitalization among those 65 years of age and older. As much as $17 billion of Medicare funds are spent for a million patients in the U.S. for this condition. CRT modality may bring down the high cost of hospitalization and re-admission rates common for heart failure sufferers.
The cardiac resynchronization therapy market is valued at $3 billion, part of the global cardiac pacemaker and defibrillator market projected to hit $5.1 billion and $10.5 billion respectively by 2015. The burgeoning market for implantable heart devices mirror the rising number of heart conditions and other lifestyle diseases.