State-of-the-art device gives heart to coronary patients

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 18 February, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 18 February, 2006, 12:00am

Heart patients implanted with a state-of-the-art device can wait for as long as 10 years before they need surgery to change the batteries.

This is almost double the life of most long-lasting batteries used in conventional pacemakers, which have to be renewed every five to seven years, said Yu Cheuk-man, head of cardiology at Chinese University. The university is one of the world's first institutions - and the only one in Asia - to use the cardiac contractility modulation (CCM) device.

Since July last year, the university has implanted the device in nine patients with severe heart failure and their health has significantly improved, with exercise capacity increasing by 14 per cent, according to Professor Yu.

But he stressed that the CCM device was not a pacemaker.

Unlike a pacemaker, which initiates a heart beat, the CCM device delivers an electrical impulse through two electrodes connected to the ventricle to strengthen the contraction and pumping functions of the heart. Professor Yu said the CCM device was believed to benefit more patients with heart failure - compared with conventional biventricular pacemakers, which only benefit about 25 per cent of patients.

Chinese University honorary clinical assistant professor Fung Wing-hong said the use of conventional pacemakers was limited because they were mainly used to regulate the pumping of the heart; pacemakers do not directly make the heart pump stronger.

'We find that only about 25 per cent of patients suffer from abnormal heart pumping movement that biventricular pacemakers may be able to help. But most patients suffer from a weak pumping function ... so in theory, we believe the new device can help improve their heart condition,' Dr Fung explained.

His colleague, Joseph Chan Yat-sun, said another breakthrough of the CCM device was that it allowed patients to recharge the battery at home once a week for two hours.

Meanwhile, Professor Yu warned of an emerging trend of people suffering heart failure at an earlier age - about 10 years ago most patients were in their 70s but now they are mostly 65.

He attributed this to more cases of coronary artery disease mainly caused by an unhealthy lifestyle. He said about half of people with coronary artery disease would develop heart failure after their heart muscle was seriously damaged.

The fatality rate of heart failure is 50 per cent within three years and 25 per cent within one year. He estimated that about 70,000 to 100,000 people in Hong Kong suffered from heart failure.