“Congestive heart failure (CHF) is characterized by a progressive enlargement of the heart, particularly the left ventricle and is a major cause of death and disability in the United States. Approximately 550,000 new cases occur annually in the U.S. alone. As the patient's heart enlarges, it cannot efficiently pump blood forward with each heart beat. In time, the heart becomes so enlarged the heart becomes ineffective as a pump and cannot adequately supply blood to the body. Even in healthy hearts only a certain percentage of the blood in a patient's left ventricle is pumped out or ejected from the chamber during each stroke of the heart. The pumped percentage, commonly referred to as the "ejection fraction", is typically about sixty percent for a healthy heart. A patient with congestive heart failure can have an ejection fraction of less than 40% and sometimes much lower. As a result of the low ejection fraction, a patient with congestive heart failure is fatigued, unable to perform even simple tasks requiring exertion and experiences pain and discomfort. Further, as the heart enlarges, the internal heart valves such as the mitral valve cannot adequately close. An incompetent mitral valve allows regurgitation of blood from the left ventricle back into the left atrium, further reducing the heart's ability to pump blood forwardly.
Congestive heart failure can result from a variety of conditions, including viral infections, incompetent heart valves (e.g. mitral valve), ischemic conditions in the heart wall or a combination of these conditions. Prolonged ischemia and occlusion of coronary arteries can result in myocardial tissue in the ventricular wall dying and becoming scar tissue. Once the myocardial tissue dies, it is less contractile (sometimes non-contractile) and no longer contributes to the pumping action of the heart. It is referred to as hypokinetic or akinetic. As the disease progresses, a local area of compromised myocardium may bulge out during the heart contractions, further decreasing the heart's ability to pump blood and further reducing the ejection fraction. In this instance, the heart wall is referred to as dyskinetic. The dyskinetic region of the heart wall may stretch and eventually form an aneurysmic bulge.
Patients suffering from congestive heart failure are commonly grouped into four classes, Classes I, II, III and IV. In the early stages, Classes I and II, drug therapy is presently the most common treatment. Drug therapy typically treats the symptoms of the disease and may slow the progression of the disease, but it cannot cure the disease. Presently, the only permanent treatment for congestive heart disease is heart transplantation, but heart transplant procedures are very risky, extremely invasive and expensive and are performed on a small percentage of patients. Many patient's do not qualify for heart transplant for failure to meet any one of a number of qualifying criteria, and, furthermore, there are not enough hearts available for transplant to meet the needs of CBF patients who do qualify.
Substantial effort has been made to find alternative treatments for congestive heart disease. For example, surgical procedures have been developed to dissect and remove weakened portions of the ventricular wall in order to reduce heart volume. This procedure is highly invasive, risky and expensive and is commonly only done in conjunction with other procedures (such as heart valve replacement or coronary artery by-pass graft). Additionally, the surgical treatment is usually only offered to Class III and IV patients and, accordingly, is not an option for most patients facing ineffective drug treatment. Finally, if the procedure fails, emergency heart transplant is the only presently available option.
Mechanical assist devices have been developed as intermediate procedures for treating congestive heart disease. Such devices include left ventricular assist devices and total artificial hearts. A left ventricular assist device includes a mechanical pump for increasing blood flow from the left ventricle into the aorta. Total artificial heart devices, such as the Jarvik heart, are usually used only as temporary measures while a patient awaits a donor heart for transplant.
Recently, improvements have been made in treating patients with CHF by implanting pacing leads in both sides of the heart in order to coordinate the contraction of both ventricles of the heart. This technique has been shown to improve hemodynamic performance and can result in increased ejection fraction from the right ventricle to the patient's lungs and the ejection fraction from the left ventricle to the patient's aorta. While this procedure has been found to be successful in providing some relief from CHF symptoms and slowed the progression of the disease, it has not been able to stop the disease and is only indicated in patients with ventricular dissynchrony.
Other efforts to treat CHF include the use of an elastic support, such as an artificial elastic sock, placed around the heart to prevent further deleterious remodeling.”
(Heart Repair, Wikipedia, 2/26/2013)
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Roger D. Corneliussen
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Copyright 2013 by Roger D. Corneliussen.
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* Date of latest addition; date of first entry is 2/26/2013.