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Wednesday, 02 May 2012 08:49
Eletrical treatment to stimulate heart nerves and reverse the symptoms of heart failure is expected to begin at Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital and Royal Liverpool University Hospital this week.
The treatment is being tested in humans after it was shown to have positive effects in trials on dogs and rats. Approximately 100 patients in 30 hospitals around the world will be involved in the trial.
Heart failure affects almost 1,000,000 in the UK as a result of heart conditions, high blood pressure and dead heart muscle.
If the heart loses its ability to pump blood around the body properly then it begins to fill with blood and can become stretched. The more the heart enlargens, the worse the problem gets.
Heart enlargement is often caused by the hormone adrenaline which makes the heart beat faster and build up muscle, possibly because of prolonged periods of exercise which begin to put strain on the heart. The treatment will involve attaching a small, pacemaker-like device to the vagus nerve near the heart, hoping to protect the organ from the effects of adrenaline.
Dr Jay Wright, a consultant cardiologist at Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital, said: "We're hoping it will shrink the heart, but it might not be to normal size. [This should] lead to improvement in symptoms - we know that the bigger the heart the worse the symptoms".
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a condition which is well known for affecting athletes as around half of all deaths associated with it occur just after the patient has engaged in some sort of physical activity. A thickening of the heart muscle makes it harder for the heart to pump blood around the body effectively meaning that the heart has to work harder to do its job and that the patient will often be left feeling out of breath, dizzy and tired.
Younger people are more likely to have a severe form of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy although it can affect people of all ages. Marc-Vivien Foé and Miklós Fehér both died after suffering a cardiac arrest on the pitch whilst playing professional football, for Cameroon and Benfica respectively, due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
Sudden cardiac arrest is unpredictable and can affect people of all ages, with 12 young people dying every week in the UK and 80% of all cases affecting people with no previously diagnosed conditions.
Please support Hand on Heart so we can reduce the risk of sudden cardiac death to children. To help us in our mission to provide defibrillators to UK schools, you can: