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Radical procedure offers hope for heart patients


'Heart remodeling' shows early signs of improving function

March 18, 1997
Web posted at: 4:02 p.m. EST (2102 GMT)

ANAHEIM, California (CNN) -- A radical treatment involving cutting away a portion of a living heart improves the function of the heart in some patients, doctors at the prestigious Cleveland Clinic reported Monday.

The treatment, pioneered by Brazilian Dr. Randas Batista 14 years ago, is being offered at several U.S. clinics for patients with dilated cardio-myopathy (enlarged heart) as a possible alternative to a transplant.

Batista's procedure was greeted with skepticism initially by the world medical community, in part because the idea of removing a portion of a living heart flies in the face of conventional medicine.

"(But) as time went by we discovered that it not only gave more time, but postponed completely for some groups," Batista said.

Explaining his procedure to a conference of the American College of Cardiology in Anaheim, Batista said he had performed over 500 such operations, and that about 85 percent of his patients had survived.

Dr. Randall Starling of the Cleveland Clinic said of 47 patients who have undergone the surgery in Cleveland, three died. Fifteen percent needed a ventricular assist device to aide blood circulation, and for three other patients, heart transplants were necessary.

Starling said the procedure involved removal of a section of the heart weighing about 90 grams from an area where the coronary arteries meet.

"That then reduces the heart to a more normal size and a more normal shape," Starling said.

"Shrinking the size of the heart allows it to work more efficiently and increases the amount of blood it can pump through the body with each beat," Batista said. "As the heart gets smaller, it becomes stronger."

Starling stressed that the procedure, dubbed "heart remodeling," was "not a cure for heart disease," and said the long-term effects were still unknown.

"But it improves the quality of life," he said. "It makes patients more functional."

About 3,600 people in the United States are waiting for a heart transplant. But at least twice that number could qualify for transplants if the demand for hearts did not so seriously outstrip the donor supply, or if the success rate continues to improve for the heart remodeling operation.

Correspondent Al Hinman and Reuters contributed to this report.


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