UVA doctors working toward therapy for patients with form of heart failure

Published: Jan. 15, 2021 at 12:26 PM EST
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Heart failure affects roughly 5.7 million Americans and that’s why doctors at the University of Virginia are working on a therapy to improve the quality of life for their patients suffering from this disease.

“Unfortunately, unlike the other heart failures where the fraction is weak or low, this particular heart failure has no known medications and no known therapies that have been approved specifically,” Dr. Sula Mazimba, a heart failure specialist at UVA, said.

At issue is something called cardiac amyloidosis or commonly known as a stiff heart.

“It’s a type of heart failure where the heart does not relax and it’s common. About 50% of patients with heart failure in the U.S. have this type of heart failure,” Mazimba said.

Mazimba says the disease causes many functional limitations severely impacting people’s quality of life.

“Patients find that they are short of breath when they walk short distances for example, they feel exhausted and the quality of life is significantly impaired,” Mazimba said.

That’s why Mazimba and Dr. Scott Lim are working on a therapy they hope will improve their patients’ day to day life.

“Some colleagues of ours around the country have gotten together with us to investigate in patients who are struggling with this disease of heart failure with preserved ejection fraction, the stiff heart, whether we can use the device to create a small hole between the two upper chambers of the heart,” Lim said.

The procedure is currently in its second clinical trial phase.

“It’s done under a minimally invasive approach via a catheter that we introduce from the blood vessel into the patient’s leg, threaded up to the heart, and then through that tube, a catheter, we’re able to introduce the heart failure device creating that small hole. It’s done relatively quickly,” Lim said.

Through this innovative approach, the doctors are hopeful this technology will be the game changer.

“We don’t know if this device is helping these patients. Is it truly effective in helping them? We have done enough investigation to know it is safe and understand the safety profile of it,” Lim said.

Both doctors say they’re hoping to submit their data to the FDA in a few months and are expecting to have some answers for their patients in the trial before the end of 2021.

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