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