St Anne’s offers new heart hope

2010-04-08 00:00

DOCTORS at St Anne’s Hospital are offering hope to victims of heart failure, in the form of cardiac resynchronisation therapy.

The therapy involves fitting a special pacemaker that keeps heartbeats in rhythm by creating electrical impulses with two leads to the heart.

Doctors are able to retrieve information from the pocket watch-sized device, and are also able to remotely programme the pacemaker.

Although the practice is not new in South Africa, St Anne’s Dr Sanjay Maharaj said the treatment is becoming increasingly popular.

“Sadly, cardiac resynchronisation therapy has so far been under-utilised in this country, but data are increasingly demonstrating its benefits in heart failure patients. Studies are showing that the therapy, when used with a special implantable defibrillator, can reduce mortality between 60 and 70%,” Maharaj said.

Doctors have been reluctant to specialise in cardiac resynchronisation therapy because of the extended periods of study necessary to gain the qualification. However, according to St Anne’s, more cardiologists are being trained in this field.

While the treatment is not appropriate for all heart failure patients, those who undergo the therapy can often be taken off the heart transplant list.

According to Maharaj, the surgery to have the device implanted is done under local anaesthesia and is fairly straightforward.

Patients are often able to leave the hospital within 24 hours of surgery.

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