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Health, Science & Tech

Minimally-Invasive New Treatment For Specific Type of Heart Attack Tested at AGH

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Allegheny Health Network
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Allegheny General Hospital is one of 65 in the nation testing a new treatment for people with heart failure that leads to a type of heart attack ominously called the “widow-maker.”

Traditional treatment is a heart pump or transplant, but AGH cardiologists are among those studying the efficacy of a parachute implant.

“This is a device, think of it as a sleeve, but you put it on the inside of the pumping chamber, or left ventricle of the heart,” said David Lasorda, an interventional cardiologist at AGH and the hospital’s co-investigator for the pharmaceutical study. “What it does is it seals off all the dead heart muscle that’s causing the heart to work inefficiently.”

CardioKinetix Inc.’s investigational parachute implant increases blood flow to the functioning parts of the heart. Lasorda said that keeps heart failure symptoms like extreme fatigue at a minimum.

“The hope is is that this will decrease re-admissions to the hospital, improve quality of life and decrease mortality,” he said.

Conrad “Connie” Foltyn said he feels great after becoming one of the first local implant recipients.

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Credit CardioKinetix
The new parachute implant being tested at AGH and other sites in the nation blocks dead heart tissue from healthy heart tissue to increase healthy heart function.

The 68-year-old former Pittsburgh Police officer suffered from congestive heart failure and had a series of cardiac episodes in 2011. He said his cardiologist told him he was a candidate for a heart pump or transplant, which often result in patients carrying assistive devices during long recoveries. When he found out he could also be considered for a clinical trial of the parachute, he opted for that instead.

“This parachute is just a small device that is inserted into your heart that takes place of the dead part and lets the blood come in and go back out, and it’s supposed to work better than a heart pump,” Foltyn said. “So, I said, ‘Well geez, that’s a lot better than having tubes in your side and having to carry a device around.’”

Lasorda said another patient who received a parachute is also doing well, but he added that this is not a miracle cure.

“They still require lifetime management, follow-up (and) tweaking of medications,” he said.

The parachute is not yet approved by the FDA; Lasorda said the clinical trials are about half-way to three-quarters of the way to being completed and that testing is on a small scale. Final data on outcomes won’t be available for six months to one year. After this first phase, larger scale trials can move forward, he said.