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Review Urges Restricted Use Of Devices To Keep Heart Patients Alive

An evaluation of the device's track record in the United Kingdom concluded that the UK's National Health Service should continue to restrict the technology's use at least// for now. The review was published in the latest issue of Health Technology Assessment, the international journal series of the Health Technology Assessment Programme, part of the National Institute for Health Research in the United Kingdom.

An implantable pump can help heart failure patients live and recover strength while they wait for a transplant.

"Although we believe that the devices have been developed sufficiently to prolong life for some very sick patients who have rapidly deteriorating heart failure, we don't feel they've been developed quite enough yet for widespread use amongst the whole heart failure population," said lead researcher Linda Sharples.

When the heart's pumping chamber weakens, a ventricular assist device, or VAD, uses a battery or electricity-powered pump to send oxygen-rich blood throughout the body.

Sharples studied health outcomes and the cost effectiveness of heart assist devices for 70 UK patients who received the implant between April 2002 and December of 2004. More than 10,000 heart assist devices have been implanted worldwide.

Although researchers are testing ventricular assist devices as a long-term or permanent therapy, right now the heart pumps are generally used as a temporary fix for heart transplant candidates who aren't likely to survive until a suitable organ is found.

All of the cases studied in the Health Technology Assessment review were surgeries performed as a bridge to transplantation. Most of the patients received an early or first-generation model of the heart pump.

Thirty of the 70 patients with a heart assist device died before receiving a donor heart. "For the people who survive the implant, we know that their heart function improves immediately, not as much as after a heart
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