Rechargeable Battery

An artery-squeezing plastic pump could help millions survive without a heart transplant


THE first patient to be fitted with a device designed to " turbocharge" an ailing heart, without greatly increasing the risk of blood clots and other life-threatening complications, is recovering in a New Zealand hospital following surgery earlier this month.

The device, called a C-Pulse, has yet to prove its mettle. But the heart specialists who invented it hope it will one day be used to treat thousands of patients who suffer so-called "moderate" heart failure. These people are not ill enough for a heart transplant or an artificial heart, with the risks they bring. But they may suffer symptoms such as extreme tiredness, and

struggle to walk short distances even with the best drug therapy.

The C-Pulse comprises an inflatable polyurethane balloon pressed against the aorta, the main artery from the heart. The balloon is kept in place by a polyester wrap stitched around the vessel, and together they form a cuff that follows the contours of the aorta. "It's engineered to fit your body, not to look like it came out of your washing machine," says William Peters, one of the two inventors, who is based at the Auckland City Hospital, New Zealand, and the company Sunshine Heart of Sydney, Australia.

The balloon reinforces the pumping action of a weakened heart (see Diagram). Each beat moves blood from the left ventricle into the aorta. Around

"Millions have heart failure in the US, butthere are only a few thousand hearts for transplants"

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