Scientists find new way to treat most common type of heart failure

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Heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF), also called diastolic heart failure, affects 3 million Americans.

Despite being the most common type of heart failure in the United States, effective treatments remain elusive, leading to high morbidity and mortality.

This type of heart failure occurs when the left ventricle is unable to relax, limiting the amount of blood filling the heart, which causes fluid to build up in the lungs and the body, causing symptoms including shortness of breath, fluid retention, irregular heartbeat, and exercise intolerance.

In a study from Northwestern Medicine, scientists found some patients with HFpEF may benefit from a novel, minimally invasive cardiac implant device called an atrial shunt.

The study also offers new insight into the role exercise plays in understanding, diagnosing, and treating this type of heart failure.

In the study, the team found that what happens in the heart and lungs during exercise is of prime importance in this type of heart failure.

The normal response to exercise is the relaxation of the blood vessels in the lungs.

Patients with HFpEF who are able to relax the blood vessels in their lungs appear to do well with the device, whereas those whose blood vessels can’t relax appear to do worse when an atrial shunt is implanted.

An atrial shunt is placed through a catheter, creating a small hole between the left and right atria allowing blood to flow from the stiff left atrium to the normal right atrium, potentially lowering pressure in the left atrium and reducing the symptoms of HFpEF.

The procedure is minimally invasive, and low-risk and patients go home the next day.

The finding suggests that future clinical trials should specifically investigate the subgroup of patients with HFpEF whose pulmonary blood vessels respond normally to exercise

This subgroup comprises two-thirds of people with this type of heart failure—that is 2 million people could benefit from this innovative therapy.

This simple, one-time procedure could reduce hospitalizations and significantly improve quality of life.

If you care about heart failure, please read studies about diabetes drug that could revolutionize heart failure treatment, and this drug can be a low-cost heart failure treatment

For more information about heart health, please see recent studies about small surgery that can prevent strokes in people with heart issues, and results showing this drug combo can cut risk of stroke and heart attack by half.

The study was conducted by Sanjiv Shah et al and published in The Lancet.

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