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AGH Joins Select Group of Medical Centers in Study of Promising New Technology for Treatment of Heart Failure

Allegheny General Hospital (AGH) in Pittsburgh has joined a select group of leading cardiovascular disease centers in the United States exploring the efficacy of a promising new technology – called the DuraHeart Left-Ventricular Assist System (LVAS) - for the treatment of patients with advanced congestive heart failure (CHF) who are on the waiting list for heart transplantation.

Pittsburgh, PA (Vocus) June 16, 2009 -- Allegheny General Hospital (AGH) has joined a select group of leading cardiovascular disease centers in the United States exploring the efficacy of a promising new technology – called the DuraHeartTM Left-Ventricular Assist System (LVAS) - for the treatment of patients with advanced congestive heart failure (CHF) who are on the waiting list for heart transplantation.

AGH is the only medical center in Pittsburgh participating in the clinical trial of the DuraHeart device, joining a number of nationally recognized medical centers, including the University of Michigan and Columbia University Medical Center.

The DuraHeart LVAS is part of a new, third-generation class of artificial mechanical support technology, referred to as left ventricular assist devices (LVADs), that is surgically implanted to help maintain the pumping capacity of a weakened heart muscle that is no longer able to supply enough oxygen-rich blood throughout the body.

Similar to the way an automobile fuel pump regulates the flow of gasoline to the vehicle’s engine, an LVAD functions via a tube connected to the heart’s left ventricle that pulls blood into the pump, where it is then propelled through the aorta - the primary vessel that circulates blood throughout the body.

The small pump sits in the upper part of the patient’s abdomen. A second tube attached to the pump exits the body through the wall of the abdomen and attaches to the pump’s portable computer control system and power supply. This exterior control system enables the medical team to customize the device for optimal blood flow.

Designed for long-term patient support, the DuraHeart device houses a centrifugal flow rotary pump with an active magnetically levitated impeller. The impeller features three position sensors and magnetic coils, providing stability within the pump that optimizes blood flow and minimizes device wear and tear.

In the study at AGH, DuraHeart is being evaluated as bridge to transplant for patients awaiting heart transplantation who are at risk of death due to end-stage left ventricular failure.

“The DuraHeart LVAS is an important technological advancement in the field of mechanical circulatory support and the preliminary results with this device are very encouraging,” said David Dean, M.D., principal investigator of the DuraHeart trial at AGH and surgical director of Cardiac Transplantation and Mechanical Circulatory Support at the Gerald McGinnis Cardiovascular Institute.

An estimated 5.7 million Americans suffer from CHF, a chronic condition caused by a weakened heart muscle that over time becomes unable to pump enough oxygen-rich blood throughout the body to support its vital organs.

Congestive heart failure is the number-one reason for hospitalization in the country and as with any illness, early diagnosis and treatment are critical to managing the disease.

“There are a number of medications that when combined with a proper diet and regular exercise may improve a patient’s condition and strengthen their heart. In the most severe cases, however, a heart transplant often becomes necessary. These patients benefit tremendously from centers like AGH with the most advanced expertise and technological capabilities,” said Raymond Benza, M.D., medical director of Heart Failure, Cardiac Transplantation and Mechanical Circulatory Support in the Gerald McGinnis Cardiovascular Institute.

Under the direction of Drs. Dean and Benza, AGH last year became the first hospital in Pittsburgh and one of the first in the nation to receive the Joint Commission’s newly required Disease Specific VAD Certification. In the first four months of 2009 alone, the hospital’s medical team performed 18 VAD implants and is actively involved in several state-of-the-art VAD clinical trials for both destination (or permanent) therapy and bridge to transplant purposes.

Approximately 8,000 people worldwide are currently awaiting a heart transplant. Due to a lack of available donors and other possible complications that compromise the procedure, just 3,000 transplants are performed each year on average.

“New technologies like the DuraHeart System are being clinically evaluated to serve as the next frontier of treatment for patients with advanced heart failure. This technology has shown the potential to not only improve a patient’s quality of life, but to extend their survival and increase the likelihood of a successful heart transplant,” said Srinivas Murali, M.D., medical director of the Gerald McGinnis Cardiovascular Institute and director of the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine at AGH.

The DuraHeart Pivotal U.S. Trial will enroll 140 patients. The first Duraheart implant at AGH was performed in early May and was the 10th study patient enrolled in the U.S.

“It is a testament to AGH’s strength in this highly specialized field of cardiovascular medicine that we are among a very select group of academic institutions leading this effort,” Dr. Murali said.

For more information about the DuraHeart Trial at AGH, please contact mcginniscvi(at)wpahs(dot)org or call 1-877-97HEART.


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