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Mechanical 'artificial hearts' can remove need for heart transplant by returning heart to normal

Mechanical 'artificial hearts' can be used to return severely failing hearts to their normal function, potentially removing the need for heart transplantation, according to new research.

The mechanical devices, known as Left Ventricular Assist Devices (LVADs), are currently used in patients with very severe heart failure whilst they await transplantation. The new study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, shows that using an LVAD combined with certain drug therapies can shrink the enlarged heart and enable it to function normally once the LVAD is removed.

For the study, researchers from Imperial College London and the Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Trust gave the full combination therapy to 15 severely ill patients. Of these 15, 11 recovered. Of these, 88 percent were free from recurrence of heart disease five years later. Their quality of life was measured as being at nearly normal.

Dr Emma Birks, from the Heart Science Centre at Imperial and the Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Trust, and lead author of the study, said: "Donor heart transplant has for many years been the gold standard in the treatment of those with severe heart failure. It has proven greatly successful but is not without its shortcomings ?particularly the shortage of donor hearts and the risk of organ rejection.

"This therapy has the potential to ease the pressure on the waiting list while also offering patients a better alternative to a donor heart ?their own, healthy heart," she added.

Professor Sir Magdi Yacoub, from the Heart Science Centre at Imperial and the Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Trust, said: "We are impressed by the dramatic, sustained improvement in the condition of these severely ill patients and we believe that this is due to the additive effects of the particular combination therapy used. The improvement observed was far greater than what has been reported to date for any other therapy in patients with severe,
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Source:Imperial College London


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