Heart pumps can help people get better, says new UK research

11th May 2017

New research in the UK has suggested people with advanced failure given a temporary heart pump can get better.

The small study showed that some patients given a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) could be successfully weaned off it if they followed a particular medical protocol designed to accelerate heart healing.  Their heart function returned to normal or near normal.

The researchers from Newcastle, who published their study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, said the study was a further sign that offering patients LVADs for recovery could be a mainstream if not totally understood approach.

At present LVADs are only permitted on the NHS for people waiting for a heart transplant. Having cardiomyopathy is one of the main reasons people need a transplant.

In the observational study, led by Dr Djordje Jakovljevic from Newcastle University, of 18 patients with LVADs (16 who had the devices taken out), 24 heart-transplant candidates and 97 healthy people, the patients who devices had been taken out achieved cardiac and physical capacities comparable to the healthy people, with about four in ten reaching normal range for peak cardiac power output and about two-thirds achieving normal-range oxygen consumption during exercise.

"Taken together, these findings suggest that a significant number of LVAD explanted patients can achieve cardiac and functional capacity similar to healthy controls, confirming benefits of LVAD therapy and directing future investigations toward strategies to enhance myocardial recovery to allow for the device to be explanted," the group wrote.

Dr Jakovljevic said that the findings did not address how long patients would need to have an LVAD implanted to experience improvements.

People given an LVAD might also have a different reason for their heart failure, different history of disease, be of different age, and other factors that may influence the outcomes and recovery, he said. So how long people should be supported was an individual thing.

He said more research was needed. "We would like to find potential predictors or markers that can inform us in the early stages which patients will respond to LVAD therapy. These markers might be able to tell when a patient is ready for a pump to be implanted, or decommissioned as the patient is closer to recovery."

Cardiomyopathy support nurse Robert Hall, from Cardiomyopathy UK, said: This is an interesting report which is hopefully a precursor to larger studies into the benefits of LVAD therapy.

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