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Review Urges Restricted Use Of Devices To Keep Heart Patients Alive

ll progress and we will have more cost-effective and effective devices in the future."

While the UK study results were mixed, U.S. heart-failure and transplant expert Dr. Leslie Miller said he has more promising experience with ventricular assist devices.

Miller said candidates for a heart assist device are generally the sickest of heart failure patients who are no longer helped by drug treatment. In the United States, heart failure programs are increasingly performing heart pump implantations, because there is no other alternative when these patients become unresponsive, Miller said.

"These people are critically ill and would otherwise die without the heart assist device. So when you start with that group, it is quite remarkable the ability of these pumps to resurrect people," Miller said. "The fact that we see a 70 to 75 percent survival to a heart transplant with these devices is really a pretty extraordinary accomplishment."

Miller heads the cardiac program at the Georgetown University School of Medicine, Georgetown University Hospital and Washington Hospital Center. He said his successful heart pump patients often recover enough to exercise for 30 minutes on a treadmill. And he said that recovery makes heart pump patients more stable when they do undergo heart transplant surgery.

"It's a very dramatic change. That's why these people do as well as anybody on the transplant list. They are so stable, they are exercising daily," Miller said.

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