Dime-sized implant may drastically change heart failure treatment

- Researchers at Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center are taking a new approach to improve quality of life for heart failure patients.

FOX News medical correspondent doctor Manny Alvarez has more.

A 6-minute walk is all it takes for doctors to know how 69-year-old Janet Wickham's heart is doing. She lost her mother and great grandmother to diastolic heart failure. Now she has it.

Wickham says: "You can't breathe you can't move, you just you can't function. You don't leave the house."
The condition allows her heart to beat fine -- but it doesn't relax enough to fill up completely between beats..
That causes blood to backup and build pressure in her lungs.

Kahwash says: "treatment for diastolic heart failure has been very disappointing over the last 3 decades. We tried old tricks, the one we use in the treatment for systolic heart failure and actually, unfortunately, none of them worked."

There's a new approach at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Janet became the first patient enrolled in the U.S. to possibly test this new, dime-size implant.

Here's how it works:

During a heart catheterization, doctors punch a small hole in the wall of a patient's heart, then they use this inter-atrial shunt to keep it open. That way excess blood can drain from one side to the other.

Kahwash says: "it's just like when you have a traffic jam, and instead of backing up all the way back to the lung, you create kind of a detour that kind of takes you around the lung." The result? Relieve pressure and allow the heart to work better.

This is a randomized trial -- so half the patients will get the device and the other half won't. Patients and their doctors aren't told until the trial is complete who got it.

Janet doesn't know if she did - but is happy doctors are testing new options her family never had. Wickham says: "I’m wanting to feel better. And what will be will be, but if there's a chance of something i want to try it."

There have been small studies with the device in Europe.

It will be tested in a total of 40 patients at up to 28 different hospitals worldwide.

To find out if you or someone you know might qualify for the study, log onto: treatmyheartfailure.com.

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