3 Medical Innovations that Could Keep Millions Heart Healthy
Prevention & Treatment One in 3 deaths in the U.S. are a result of cardiovascular disease, but researchers hope innovative ways to treat the problem will save lives.
About 2,150 Americans die from heart disease, the nation’s number one killer, every day. That’s one every 40 seconds. This is why so many researchers are investing time and money into new treatments.
Novel approaches to heart disease are extending lives and improving the quality of patients’ lives. 2015 brought several new therapies to patients in need, and this year should also bring exciting innovations in cardiology.
Here are three of those innovations:
1. Preventing stroke
A new device is helping prevent strokes in patients who are five-times more vulnerable to it than the average American—those with atrial fibrillation (AF). AF affects 33 million people worldwide and occurs when the heart’s two upper chambers contract quickly and irregularly. Typically, AF is treated with blood thinners or other procedures combined with blood thinners.
In 2015, the FDA approved a mesh-like device implanted in the left atrial appendage of the heart through a catheter. The device is designed to close the appendage and catch blood clots, like a strainer, so they don’t move through the heart and cause a stroke. Once implanted, most patients no longer need to be on blood thinners, which can come with dietary restrictions and regular blood monitoring.
2. Pacing without wires
Doctors in the U.S. are testing miniature cardiac pacemakers that stimulate the heart to a regular rhythm without connecting leads or wires. With this technology, doctors are able to implant the device minimally invasively, eliminate the visible lump and scar on a patient’s chest, and potentially reduce complications that come from leads.
The device is less than 10 percent the size of a conventional pacemaker. The device is implanted through a small incision in the groin and deployed directly into the heart. Leadless technology allows the device to operate without the wires that run from traditional pacemakers, through the patient’s chest, to the heart. Most complications with pacemakers come from the “pocket” where the larger part of the pacemaker is placed or from leads. Currently, there are two brands of leadless pacemakers being studied in the U.S. Researchers expect the devices to be presented to the FDA in 2016.
3. New hope for heart failure patients
Nearly 6 million people in the U.S. are living with heart failure, and the number of patients affected is only expected to increase. Up to 50 percent of those with heart failure die within five years of diagnosis. However, a new drug (sacubitril/valsartan) is changing how patients are treated.
A clinical trial involving over 8,400 patients showed it lowered the chances of death or hospitalization by about 20 percent compared to the current standard drug treatment. It also reduced rate of heart failure hospitalizations by 21 percent and reduced the risk of all-cause mortality by 16 percent. Based on these results, this drug is being used as a replacement of one of the first-line drugs in heart failure; it was approved by the FDA in the summer of 2015.