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Latest Advances in Heart Failure Treatment

New therapeutic approaches, medicines, imaging techniques, and devices have paved the way for advances in heart failure diagnoses and prevention. How can we continue to improve upon these novel treatments?



 


Around 695,000 Americans die from heart disease each year; of those deaths, 8.5% are due to heart failure. Heart failure occurs when the heart cannot pump blood and oxygen throughout your body, consequently unable to support significant organs. A person’s chances of heart disease can increase due to medical conditions, unhealthy habits, and environmental factors. Yet, doctors and researchers have been trying to improve the quality of life for those suffering from heart failure since the mid-20th century.


In the 1940s and 60s, electrocardiography (ECG) utilized electrodes to monitor the heart’s electrical signals, condition, and rhythm. It was soon followed by other diagnostics such as cardiac catheterization and echocardiography, which helped characterize many forms of heart diseases. In the early 1990s, the discovery of powerful imaging technologies such as computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) were able to give professionals a detailed anatomical image of the heart. These advances in our understanding of the heart and its functions paved the way for modern drugs and technology.


Today, we have many more advanced ways to treat heart failure. Still, heart failure remains one of the most common causes of mortality, and the world continues to push for more technology and medicine to be developed. One path to treatment is through devices aimed to improve blood flow. Enhanced External Counterpulsation (EECP), also known as flow therapy is a treatment that uses counterpulsation technology to improve blood flow and decrease congestion in the heart. Similarly, Heartmate 3 is a device that helps pump blood from the left ventricle of the heart. Other devices like Mitraclip help pump blood more effectively while some, like the V-Wave InterAtrial Shunt Device, can even redirect blood to organs and are implanted in the heart.


Yet these devices are not perfect and are often paired with drugs intended to relieve symptoms of heart failure. Ivabradine is a new drug that can improve the heart’s pumping ability by slowing down the heart rate and increasing the amount of blood that is pumped per beat. Sacubitril and Valsartan are a combination of drugs that were FDA approved in 2015, and have had positive impacts on patients with heart failure; they have also reduced mortality from heart failure.


By increasing our understanding of the heart, we have been able to develop amazing technological devices that have improved our comprehension of the treatment of heart failure.


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