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Electrical treatment for heart failure to be trialled in humans

Published on 30/04/2012

Doctors are about to begin the first trial in humans using electricity to shrink the heart of patients suffering from heart failure.

Heart failure affects around 900,000 people in the UK and can be the result of high blood pressure, dead heart muscle after a heart attack or a genetic condition.

As the heart loses its ability to pump it fills with too much blood and becomes stretched over time. The bigger the heart gets, the worse the symptoms.

Scientists have developed a new technique that involves electrically stimulating nerves leading up to the heart, with the hope that it will reduce size and improve life expectancy. The technique has already been successfully trialled on rats and dogs.

This week, for the first time, surgeons at Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital and the Royal Liverpool University Hospital will use the technique on a human patient.

The surgeons will fit a device similar to a pacemaker to the vagus nerve which runs to the heart. Electrical stimulation will protect the heart from the effects of the hormone adrenaline, which can damage the heart further.

Nearly 100 patients will take part in the trial at 30 hospitals around the world.

Dr Jay Wright, a consultant cardiologist at Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital said: "We're hoping it will shrink the heart, but it might not be to normal size."

He said shrinkage "would lead to improvement in symptoms - we know that the bigger the heart the worse the symptoms".

If you want to be covered for treatments like this one on your private medical insurance policy then compare health insurance policies with full inpatient and outpatient cover.

© ActiveQuote Ltd. 2012

Categories:  Medical
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