Although pharmacologic therapy has made impressive advances in the past decade and is the mainstay of therapy for heart failure (HF), there is still a large unmet need, because morbidity and mortality remain unacceptably high. Implanted medical devices are gaining increasing utility in this group of patients and have the potential to revolutionize the treatment of HF. The majority of devices in clinical use or under active investigation in HF can be grouped into 1 of 4 categories: devices to monitor the HF condition, devices to treat rhythm disturbances, devices to improve the mechanical efficiency of the heart, and devices to replace part or all of the heart's function. There are several devices either approved or under development to monitor the HF condition, ranging from interactive weight scales to implantable continuous pressure monitors. The challenge is to demonstrate that this technology can improve patient outcomes. Pacemakers and implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) are used to treat heart rhythms in a broad range of patients with heart disease, but they now have a special place in HF management with the prophylactic use of ICDs in patients who have advanced systolic dysfunction. The Multicenter Automatic Defibrillator Implantation Trial (MADIT) II study demonstrated a 29% reduction in all-cause mortality with ICDs in patients with a history of a myocardial infarction and a left ventricular (LV) ejection fraction <0.30. LV and multisite pacing are means of improving the mechanical efficiency of the heart. The concept is to create a more coordinated contraction of the ventricles to overcome the inefficiency associated with conduction system delays, which are common in HF. The acute hemodynamic effect can be impressive and is immediate. Several studies of intermediate duration (3 to 6 months) have consistently demonstrated that biventricular pacing improves symptoms and exercise capacity. Mechanical methods of remodeling the heart into a more efficient shape have been under scrutiny for several years. New methods of restraining the heart with prosthetic material are under investigation in humans, with encouraging pilot results. Heart replacement has been evaluated clinically with LV assist devices for several decades. The Randomized Evaluation of Mechanical Assistance Therapy as an Alternative in Congestive Heart Failure (REMATCH) study has demonstrated a proof of concept for the use of mechanical blood pumps to improve survival, functional capacity, and symptoms. Several assist devices with such features as total implantability, improved durability, and smaller size are now under study; these may further improve the outcomes of patients. One year ago, the world witnessed the first clinical use of a totally implantable total artificial heart. Although the long-term outcomes were limited, the device demonstrated an impressive ability to improve organ function and extend survival in the population facing imminent death. Further development in this field is expected. The use of devices in HF now has a strong foothold, and the potential exists for substantially greater use of a broad range of devices in the near future.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine