- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 3, 2002

BERLIN (AP) Ten patients with end-stage heart failure were successfully treated with implants of mechanical pumps to rest their hearts while drugs helped repair the damaged organs, a renowned heart surgeon said yesterday.

It took an average of six months on the pump for the hearts to recover, and the patients once near death since have returned to work, Dr. Magdi Yacoub said at the European Society of Cardiology's annual meeting.

Their hearts have been functioning normally for an average of one year, with one patient reaching four years, Dr. Yacoub said.

"I've been around for 35 years, and this is the most exciting thing I've seen in my whole career," said Dr. Yacoub, a pioneering heart-transplant surgeon. "You have someone who's so sick he is emaciated, then you have him running in the park, playing football or whatever."

Colleagues, while impressed, said it was too early to tell whether the patients have been cured.

"It's going to take more than 10 patients to really see where this fits," said Sidney Smith, medical director of the American Heart Association. "But it is a potential solution to a major problem.

"In the United States alone, more than 40,000 patients need transplantation and there are only 2,500 donor organs."

Dr. Yacoub reported results on a study of 19 patients with end-stage heart failure, which means their hearts had almost stopped working. Most of them were in their 50s or 60s and had suffered from progressive heart failure for many years.

All the patients had enlarged hearts from their disease their hearts bulked up to try to compensate for the damage, but only became less efficient. Other organs also deteriorated.

The patients' only hope was a heart transplant, but they were taken off the waiting list because they were too ill.

Three patients were too sick and died early on in the study from multiorgan failure. Another one died from an infection.

Dr. Yacoub implanted the heart pumps in the chests of the remaining 15 patients and left them there for as long as it took to reverse the heart damage.

The pump, called the HeartMate, takes over the heart's job of pumping blood around the body, giving the heart a chance to shrink back to its proper size and repair itself. The heart continues beating, it just stops pumping blood.

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