A pioneering operation that shrinks the heart without surgery has been carried out in Britain for the first time – and may help people with heart failure.
A drawstring-like device is used to shut off damaged heart tissue.
It has given a new lease of life to the first Briton, Sevket Gocer to undergo the procedure.
‘When people are not able to walk around because their heart is too weak, they are at increased risk of death,’ says Professor of Cardiac Surgery Olaf Wendler, who carried out the operation at King’s College Hospital in London.
Scarring of the heart by a myocardial infarction and sustained hypertension equates to 70% of all cases of heart failure. When the heart has been scarred, the damaged area is useless.
The conventional operation for heart scarring is to stop the heart and cut out the scarred area while the patient is kept alive on a heart-bypass machine.
But this is a risky procedure that doesn’t always produce an improvement.
Mr Wendler decided to try the new operation – known as Less Invasive Ventricular Enhancement, or LIVE.
LIVE can be performed without bypass. It is still necessary to make an incision of 12 to 15cm to open up the chest wall.
Then, using an X-ray, a needle guides a wire through the left ventricle – one of the heart’s four chambers – and across the scarred area of the heart. The wire is anchored to the walls of the chamber – and then pulled taut to seal off the scarred part of left ventricle.
This significantly reduces the size of the left ventricle, which is the part responsible for pumping blood around the body and which swells and scars during a heart attack. With the scarring sealed off, the ‘re-sized’ organ is able to pump much more effectively.
If successful, the operation can bring patients on to an exercise level where they’re able to look after themselves properly, including doing the shopping and having a social life.