Heart failure patients who retain too much fluid after becoming resistant to water tablets are being offered a treatment similar to kidney dialysis.
The treatment, Aquadex FlexFlow, uses a simple pressure system to filter the blood and can treat people in hospital in just three days.
It was developed in America about eight years ago and is now available on the NHS at University College London, Russells Hall in Dudley, Harefield in Uxbridge and University Hospital in Southampton.
Fluid retention is a common problem in patients suffering from heart failure, including some with cardiomyopathy. It can leave patients tired, breathless and restricted in their activities.
The problem can usually be successfully treated with water tablets, known as diuretics, but sometimes patients need extra help.
Dr Martin Thomas, a cardiologist at University College London, said that usually patients have a catheter inserted into their bladders to remove the fluid but this process is slow. They could face up to 12 days in hospital just to get rid of 10kg of fluid.
He said: “It can be an uncomfortable experience that also puts them at risk of hospital-acquired infections.”
In the new treatment, a tube is put in the neck under local anaesthetic and fluid is filtered from the bloodstream — a bit like kidney dialysis. The same procedure would take a quarter of the time.
Excess fluid is separated from the blood and the filtered blood then passes back into the patient’s body. The kidneys have a rest, so afterwards the patient’s body starts responding to the water tablets again.
Dr Thomas saw the Aquadex FlexFlow treatment working in Australia. He said: “There are parallels with a dialysis machine but this treatment just removes water, not waste products, from the body. Only 40ml of blood is removed from the body at any one time and half a litre of fluid can be removed every hour.
“The treatment is very gentle but there is a monitor on the machine just to check it’s not affecting the patient’s kidneys. The machine is portable, so they can walk around.
“The treatment not only works, it gives patients back their quality of life. Crucially, it rebalances the kidneys, so they are receptive to water tablets again.”
No related pages or links.