NYM Offers Innovative Treatment Option for Heart Failure

Jul 29, 2009

Dr. David Benson and Dr. Gioia Turitto looking at a computer screen

Gioia Turitto, M.D., director of electrophysiology, left, and David Benson, M.D., associate director of the electrophysiology laboratory.

Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a condition in which the pumping mechanism of the heart becomes less efficient. The heart is no longer able to pump enough blood to supply the body with sufficient nutrients and oxygen. CHF, which develops over time, is usually secondary to illnesses such as coronary artery disease and hypertension that weaken or damage the heart. Statistics show that an estimated five million Americans have heart failure.

In about 30 percent of patients with CHF secondary to weakening of the heart muscle, an abnormality in the heart causes its two lower chambers to stop beating simultaneously, making the heart even less efficient. This abnormality is known as ventricular dyssynchrony, which can lead to more shortness of breath, problems with exercising and a higher risk of sudden cardiac death in patients with CHF.

Cardiac resynchronization therapy, which is now available at New York Methodist Hospital (NYM), is designed to correct ventricular dyssynchrony. Numerous studies have shown that this device can decrease the risk of mortality from sudden cardiac death and improves heart function and quality of life in patients with moderate to severe heart failure, said Gioia Turitto, M.D., cardiologist and director of electrophysiology at NYM. CRT improves the symptoms of heart failure in about 50 percent of patients who have been treated extensively with medications but still have severe or moderately severe heart failure symptoms.

CRT is the most important advance in the treatment of heart failure for appropriate patients since the introduction of beta-blockers, said Jeremiah Gelles, M.D., attending physician in cardiology.

Like a pacemaker, a cardiac resynchronization device sends tiny electrical pulses via leads (soft insulated wires) to the lower chambers of the heart to synchronize the contractions of the ventricles. The device also improves the hearts ability to pump blood and oxygen throughout the body. During the procedure to install the device, small incisions are made in the chest and the leads and device are inserted, said Dr. Turitto. Patients are given a local anesthetic and the patient is usually discharged from the Hospital within 24 hours.

For more information or for a referral to a cardiac specialist at NYM please call 1-866-84-HEART.