Study: New therapy stops heart disease

March 29, 2011 4:33:14 AM PDT
Five million Americans are currently living with heart failure, and that number is expected to double in the next 15 years.

Now, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has just approved a new way to keep people with mild forms of heart disease from progressing to advanced disease.

Every moment is a bonus moment for Elmer Goodman. A few months ago, he found out he has heart disease.

"One artery was completely blocked, and one was three-quarters blocked," Goodman said.

After a quadruple bypass, Godoman still didn't feel well. He then had a cardiac resynchronization device with a defibrillator implanted. Doctor Wojciech Zareba says the device is saving lives.

"It's probably one of the most spectacular effects of therapy we can see," said Zareba, who is a cardiologist with University of Rochester in Rochester, N.Y.

Cardiac resynchronization therapy is used for advanced heart failure, but when doctors studied it as a new way to prevent patients with mild disease from developing more advanced heart failure, it worked.

They found a 34 percent reduced risk of death or heart failure in those patients.

"This is, for us, extremely, extremely encouraging results," Zareba said.

Doctors implant the device and connect wire leads to the heart chambers and heart wall via vessels. The device sends electrical impulses to both sides of the heart.

"It's like turning on the light. All of the sudden, in a few seconds, minutes, this heart is improving. It starts contracting better," Zareba said.

Goodman felt the effects right away. Now, he has a lot more energy to do the things he loves.

"I'm happy to be able to go out and do things. It's really changed the quality of my life," Goodman said. And that, he says, is priceless.

Zareba points out, for unknown reasons, the therapy is actually more beneficial to women, resulting in a 63 percent reduction in their risk of heart failure.