Parachuting in a new treatment to help heart failure patients

Monday 7 December 2015

Parachuting in a new treatment to help heart failure patients

Patients with life-threatening heart failure have been given a lifeline thanks to an implant being offered by a pioneering NHS heart service.

Experts at Guy’s and St Thomas’ are the only team in the country using the Parachute implant to help patients with severe heart failure when other medical treatments are not working. They now plan to expand their service so that more patients can benefit.

The small device, which measures 64-85mm in diameter and resembles an open parachute, is implanted into the main pumping chamber of the heart when there is damaged muscle preventing the heart from pumping blood around the body properly.  

By isolating the damaged muscle, the Parachute is able to improve the efficiency of the pumping action of the heart. This can alleviate symptoms of heart failure such as severe breathlessness and extreme fatigue.

Retired pub landlord Terry Eaton, 70, from Clevedon in Somerset, received a Parachute implant at St Thomas’ Hospital in 2014 after developing symptoms of severe heart failure following three heart attacks.

Terry, who is one of only 10 patients to undergo the procedure at St Thomas’, says: “I was told that I was going to be taking part in an experimental new procedure but I wasn’t nervous at all. I came to meet the doctors at St Thomas’ and they explained exactly how the Parachute would work, which was reassuring.

“The procedure wasn’t painful. It only took 20 minutes for the Parachute to be implanted and I was walking out of the hospital two days later. I was very pleased with how everything went.”

Heart failure is a life-threatening condition that occurs when the heart does not pump enough blood around the body at an adequate pressure. It affects 900,000 people across the UK and accounts for approximately 64,000 hospital admissions in England and Wales each year.

It is one of the leading causes of death in the UK. Up to 15% of patients die during a hospital admission or within 30 days of being discharged home from hospital, with a further 30% of patients dying within 12 months.

Patients are currently being evaluated from hospitals around the country to assess suitability for the treatment. Once patients are approved for the Parachute, it is implanted via a minimally invasive procedure. They are sedated but awake while the Parachute is inserted via a catheter in the groin before being guided to the heart and opened up, once positioned, in the left ventricle.

Consultant cardiologists Dr Ronak Rajani and Professor Simon Redwood run the Parachute implant service established at St Thomas’ Hospital last year and say the early results have been positive.

Dr Rajani says: “The Parachute implant is an exciting new procedure to help people with severe heart failure. These are patients who have received all other conventional treatments but are still significantly debilitated by their symptoms. Their conditions are so serious that they have a reduced quality of life and indeed a lower life expectancy.

“The Parachute can improve the efficiency of heart muscle when alternatives such as a mechanical heart pump or a heart transplant are unavailable or too risky. It’s bringing real benefits for our patients and we look forward to offering it to more people with severe heart failure.”  

Terry Eaton, who has four grandchildren, adds: “Even though I can’t feel the Parachute in my heart, I know it’s made a difference. I’m keeping active and I don’t need to use the stairlift for getting up to my flat anymore – though it means I have no excuse not to help my wife carry the shopping up the stairs!

“My heart failure meant my wife was not expecting us to reach our silver wedding anniversary but now we’re set to celebrate our golden wedding anniversary in February, thanks to the NHS.”

Last updated: December 2015

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