Last-chance surgery reshapes the heart
November 10, 1999
Web posted at: 11:14 a.m. EST (1614 GMT)
ATLANTA (CNN) -- Though strides are being made in the fight against heart disease, treatments have been limited for what cardiologists call heart failure, in which a patient's heart becomes dangerously weak and enlarged. But this week, surgeons at the Cleveland Clinic reported good results from a last-chance surgery to reshape the heart.
The Cleveland researchers, including Dr. Patrick McCarthy, presented the results of 90 heart reshaping surgeries at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association in Atlanta.
Outside of such experimental surgeries, heart failure patients generally have only two less-than-perfect options: medications which are not completely effective, and to get on the long waiting list for a heart transplant.
In the procedure tested at the Cleveland Clinic, extra scar tissue is removed, and the enlarged heart is cut down to normal size.
"Right now at one year, we have over 90 percent of the patients alive...more importantly is that it continues to work. Over 80 percent of the patients are much improved and better than they have been," said Dr. McCarthy.
Connie Hicks is among the 90 patients who have undergone the Cleveland Clinic procedure.
Hicks had the surgery after she suffered a heart attack and developed heart failure. In a wheelchair and on oxygen, the only medical option left to her was a heart transplant.
"Literally everywhere she went, she was transported," said her husband, Earnest Hicks. "She just didn't walk from anywhere to anywhere as a regular thing."
The surgery has allowed her to shed both the wheelchair and the oxygen.
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The heart reshaping surgery is not totally new. Cleveland Clinic doctors say it is a refinement of several old procedures, most notably a surgery pioneered by Dr. Randis Batista of Brazil.
Batista received widespread attention three years ago when he claimed his heart shrinking surgery saved a number of Brazilian patients.
U.S. doctors have since abandoned the Batista procedure.
"He was oversold, in that Dr. Batista made this appear that everyone would respond and that everyone would get better," said McCarthy.
But the Batista procedure was not a total failure, doctors say it has led to the development of new heart reshaping surgeries.
Medical Correspondent Rhonda Rowland contributed to this report.
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American Heart Association
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