Discovery reduces the risk of death associated with heart failure by 24 percent compared to other methods of treatment

Researchers from the University of Ottawa Heart Institute (UOHI) have conducted one of the most thorough studies on heart failure and concluded that new therapeutic implants are capable of strengthening and synchronizing a fading heart beat. 

Dr. Anthony Tang and Dr. George Wells, study co-leaders from UOHI, have performed a comprehensive study on heart failure and found that a therapeutic implant could synchronize a fading heart beat, which could help save millions of lives. 

Heart failure is the heart's inability to supply sufficient blood flow to meet the needs of the body. More than 500,000 Canadians and five million Americans have heart failure annually, and it has become more common throughout aging communities. 

But now, Tang and Wells' new therapeutic implant has the potential to reduce the risk of death associated with heart failure by 24 percent compared to previous methods of treatment. 

"This kind of device brings the potential to save thousands of lives in Canada alone and offers new hope to so many heart patients and their families," said Tang. "Helping the lower chambers of the heart beat strongly and in unison can improve a person's quality of life, keep them out of the hospital longer and reduce their risk of sudden death."

The clinical trial for the therapeutic implants began in 2003, and consisted of 1,798 patients in 24 different centers in Australia, Canada, Turkey and Europe. The patients were implanted with a miniature defibrillator (ICD) or the new device, which contained insulated wires called leads that transmit electrical impulses and signals to the heart. The therapy is called cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT), and it aims to stimulate and synchronize the heart so it can beat in-sync. Patients were then monitored for a 40-month period. 

After the 40-month observation period, Tang and Wells found that patients with CRT lived longer and were less likely to have to visit the hospital for a worsening condition than those without CRT. The therapy is available to those with mild to moderate heart failure, and is the first to study the survival rates and specific benefits of CRT along with an ICD. 

"This trial represents a tremendous research success for cardiovascular scientists and demonstrates the importance of clinical evaluative research," said Dr. Alain Beaudet, President of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. "We congratulate the Heart Institute for its efforts, which will lead to better health outcomes and longer lives for heart patients."

This study was published in The New England Journal of Medicine on November 14. 

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