By Wall Street Journal Custom Content
Tyrone Morris, 42, a restaurant owner in Milwaukee, was diagnosed with congestive heart failure in 2014. His condition worsened quickly, and he soon felt out of breath and weak on a regular basis.
"My doctor told me that eventually my heart was going to shut down and that I was going to need a heart transplant," he said.
In 2015, after collapsing in his basement, Morris’s care team implanted a CardioMEMS device — a tiny sensor in Tyrone's pulmonary artery that measures the fluid and pressure levels within his heart.
Each morning, he lies on a special pillow as the sensor captures an 18-second reading and transfers the information — his heart-pressure data — to a secure website that is monitored by his care team. They can tell when his overall condition continues to worsen and are proactively empowered to provide better care and medication adjustments as needed, without requiring hospitalization or frequent office visits.
In 2016, Morris also received the HeartMate 3 heart pump, a groundbreaking left ventricular assist device (LVAD) that assists his heart in pumping blood 24 hours a day.
"The HeartMate3 saved my life," he said. "The doctor had told me I had six months to live, and here I am four years later. Not to mention, I feel more like a normal person again."
Developing New Technologies
While heart failure remains a serious, life-threatening condition, medical innovations have emerged giving people living with it a better quality of life and better odds of long-term survival.
The CardioMEMS System, for example, is the first and only U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved heart failure monitoring device that is clinically proven to significantly reduce hospital admissions when used by physicians to manage heart failure. Recent real-world data, at one year, showed a 58% reduction in heart failure hospitalizations.
Additionally, the HeartMate 3 heart pump, was approved as a short-or long-term implant in specific heart failure patients ineligible for a transplant or those waiting for a transplant. In 2019, HeartMate 3 was approved to be implanted via a less invasive surgical technique. Clinical trials have shown the HeartMate 3 device has a 79% survival rate after two years — approaching the survival rate after a heart transplant.
"Heart failure is just one cardiac condition that has seen significant advancement in treatment methods and technological innovation in recent years," said Dr. Philip B. Adamson, divisional vice president and chief medical officer for heart failure at Abbott. "We have seen a dramatic shift in virtual, outpatient management, particularly over the past several months, as opposed to in-office visits. The development of minimally invasive procedures and technology that allows doctors to monitor patients' cardiac conditions remotely has made treating and managing a broader range of heart conditions easier."
"One of the biggest breakthroughs has been the ability to implant devices through catheters, replacing the need for major surgery," he said.
CardioMEMS, approved by the FDA in 2014, is a prime example.
"Before CardioMEMS was introduced, monitoring heart pressures required a catheter be placed through the neck or groin and advanced into the heart, which could only be done while the patient was admitted in the hospital," Adamson added.
Leading the Way
"Abbott's innovative heart care devices are leaders in health tech," said Michael Dale, senior vice president of Abbott's structural heart business. "Thanks to modern healthcare, people around the world are living longer. But with that comes more people experiencing heart problems at older ages. These new technologies are allowing us to expand access to care and solutions that can restore people back to health in a safer way than ever before."
For example, Abbott’s MitraClip is the only US-approved device to repair a leaky mitral valve in the heart through a minimally invasive catheter-based procedure.
"Before MitraClip, the only option for people with mitral valve problems was medication for symptom management — which of course doesn’t fix the problem — or open-heart surgery for which many people are ineligible," Dale said. "So, it has unquestionably been one of the most significant advancements in the treatment of heart failure in over a decade."
Abbott also developed the Amplatzer Piccolo Occluder — the world's first minimally invasive closure device specifically designed for premature babies and newborns as small as 700 grams — to close a potentially dangerous hole in the heart called patent ductus arteriosus (PDA).
PDA is one of the most common congenital heart defects that may require treatment for approximately 12,0001,2 premature infants a year who are deemed to have a larger-sized PDA requiring treatment and whose delicate anatomies don’t always allow for more invasive procedures.
"These minimally invasive procedures can be lifesaving for people with severe heart conditions who previously had limited treatment options because major surgery was deemed too risky," Dale continued.
Also tiny, but with an important job to do, the Masters 15mm pediatric valve is the world’s smallest mechanical heart valve specifically designed for babies and young children. Conducting valve-replacement surgery on newborns with congenital heart defects has always been challenging, partly because surgeons have had to use pediatric valves designed for larger children and adults. Abbott’s valve filled that unmet need.
"What we did — in partnership with clinicians, researchers and regulators — is take on the task of miniaturizing one of our existing devices while retaining its already established functional capability, so that it could be used for these children," Dale said.
Giving Lives Back
Most importantly, emerging cardiac devices and procedures are helping the people who need them live better and more carefree.
Morris credits his HeartMate 3 and CardioMEMS for allowing him to resume his favorite activities, including bowling, fishing and playing basketball — activities people living with advanced heart failure previously could never imagine doing.
"I had a perfect bowling game three months after the HeartMate3 was implanted in me," he said. "I can do most of the things a regular person can do again."
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2Bonamy, Anna-Karin Edstedt, Anna Gudmundsdottir, Rolf F. Maier, Liis Toome, Jennifer Zeitlin, Mercedes Bonet, Alan Fenton et al. "Patent ductus arteriosus treatment in very preterm infants: a european population-based cohort study (EPICE) on variation and outcomes." Neonatology 111, no. 4 (2017): 367-375.