Posts Tagged ‘heart failure’

The Prophetic Protein :: Who is at risk for heart attack?

June 25, 2010

Tense hours in the emergency room while tests confirm a heart attack may be rolled back to mere minutes, thanks to a telltale protein marker identified by Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine researchers. Better yet, a routine blood test for the nefarious protein could serve as an early warning to people at high risk :: Take steps now, and you may dodge the dangerous attack altogether.

When the proverbial elephant takes a seat on one’s chest, it is a decided hint: That person might be having a heart attack, or myocardial infarction (MI). Every 25 seconds, someone in the United States has one, according to the American Heart Association, but the oft-reported sensation of chest tightening or pain is just that-a clue. Even in the hospital, it can take eight to 12 hours for current tests to conclusively rule a heart attack in or out. Common alternative culprits in chest pain are intense heartburn or a gallstone attack.

Led by top physician-researcher Daniel I. Simon, MD, investigators at the School of Medicine, however, have discovered a marker of heart attack that promises to cuthours off the time for definitive MI diagnosis-to the tune of confirmation within 10 to 15 minutes of arriving at the emergency room. What’s more, a simple blood test for the novel myeloid-related protein-8/14 (MRP-8/14) marker could give long-used cholesterol screening a run for its money as a signal of MI in the making, years ahead of the cardiac attack.

“Though we gain great insight into patients’ potential risk for cardiovascular disease using conventional biomarkers, we are limited in identifying some people at risk,” says Douglas Vaughan, MD, professor of cardiology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and chair of its Department of Medicine. “An additional marker measured in people’s blood could valuably refine our ability to take care of patients with coronary artery disease.”

To hone in on the up-and-coming predictive protein MRP- 8/14, researchers applied an unprecedented scientific approach that scoured entire human genomes for cardiac warning signs. “We were on the hunt. We wanted to know what genes turn on or off in heart attack patients,” explains Dr. Simon, the Herman K. Hellerstein Professor of Cardiovascular Research at the School of Medicine and director of University Hospitals Harrington-McLaughlin Heart & Vascular Institute. Dr. Simon and his team of researchers identified MRP-8/14 as their best-bet marker for heart attack for use in emergency settings and as a potential companion to routine cholesterol screening in the doctor’s office.

Dr. Simon’s account is a tale of finding a little molecule with big potential-a project born in a lab in New England that has grown on a campus in Cleveland.

Read the full story at Medicus.


Cardiologists discover cancer risks in group of blood pressure medications

June 24, 2010

University Hospitals Case Medical Center cardiologists have uncovered new research showing an increased risk of cancer with a group of blood pressure medications known as angiotensin-receptor blockers (ARBs).

This class of drugs is used by millions of patients not only for high blood pressure but also for heart failure, cardiovascular risk reduction and diabetic kidney disease.

University Hospitals Harrington-McLaughlin Heart & Vascular Institute’s Drs. Ilke Sipahi, Daniel I. Simon and James C. Fang recently completed a meta-analysis of over 60,000 patients randomly assigned to take either an ARB or a control medication. Their findings are published online today at The Lancet Oncology.

The researchers found that patients randomized to ARBs has “significantly increased risk of new cancer” compared to control patients.

“We have found the risk of new cancers was increased with these medications by 8-11 percent,” said Dr. Ilke Sipahi, associate director of heart failure and transplantation and assistant professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. “Most importantly, risk of lung cancer was increased by 25 percent.”

However, the research did not establish any link between ARBs and other types of cancer such breast cancer.

“This is the first time an association between ARBs and cancer development is suggested,” Dr. Sipahi continued. “While our findings are robust, they need to be replicated in other studies before they can be considered as definitive.”

Before this study, there were no major safety concerns with ARBs except for their use in pregnancy and in patients with chronic kidney or blockages of kidney arteries. Interestingly, previous animal studies with ARBs have been negative for cancer development.

“In medicine, physicians must balance the benefits and risks of all drug and device therapies,” said Dr. Daniel Simon, director of the Harrington-McLaughlin Heart & Vascular Institute at University Hospitals Case Medical Center and professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. “We recommend that patients discuss the findings of this study with their physicians since ARBs are effective agents in the treatment of high blood pressure and heart failure. Meta-analyses are a powerful tool to look at low frequency safety signals, but require confirmation with other approaches, such as large national health and managed care registries.”

James Fang discusses LVADs for End-Stage Heart Failure with WebMD

April 11, 2010

More than 5 million Americans have heart failure, a progressive and often lethal condition that weakens the heart and saps its pumping power. The mainstays of treatment — including drug therapy, lifestyle modification, and surgery to implant pacemakers or defibrillators — can be quite effective at managing symptoms of mild to moderate heart failure.

But what about the estimated 150,000 Americans who suffer from chronic, severe heart failure?

Doctors traditionally have had little to offer these patients in the way of lifesaving treatment, short of a heart transplant. But with only about 2,100 donor hearts available each year, the demand for hearts inevitably outweighs the supply. And some patients are simply too old to qualify for a transplant. For them, what’s the alternative?

There’s now an option that could change the outlook for many with severe heart failure: implantable mechanical pumps called left ventricular-assist devices (LVADs or sometimes simply VADs.)

These devices were once just used as a “bridge” — a temporary stopgap to keep heart failure patients alive until they could get a heart transplant. But now, they have become so effective that doctors use them as a treatment in themselves. LVADs are now an alternative to heart transplants, permanently augmenting the action of a heart’s main pumping chamber.

In addition, the continuous-flow LVAD was associated with fewer infections and a significantly lower rate of failure.

“The continuous-flow LVAD has changed the landscape of advanced heart failure,” says James C. Fang, MD, chief medical officer of the Harrington-McLaughlin Heart and Vascular Institute at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland and the author of an editorial on LVADs that accompanied the study in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“In addition to being more durable, the new device is a lot smaller – about the size of a D battery. It’s also quiet. You can barely hear it. With the old devices, you could hear them coming down the street.”

Find the full article on

Learn about the Clinical Role of Exercise Training in Management of Patients With Chronic Heart Failure

March 31, 2010

J Cardiopulm Rehabil Prev. 2010 Mar

Prior exercise research and the recently completed HF-ACTION (Heart Failure and A Controlled Trial Investigating Outcomes of Exercise Training) trial indicate that regular exercise represents an effective therapy in the management of patients with stable chronic heart failure (HF) due to left ventricular systolic dysfunction. This review summarizes the results from these studies and provides a guide for prescribing exercise. Regular aerobic-type exercise training improves exercise capacity; does not worsen and may, in fact, mildly improve cardiac function; and partially improves other physiological abnormalities that develop because of chronic HF (eg, autonomic and skeletal muscle function). Regular exercise is safe, improves health status, and modestly reduces ( approximately 15%) combined risk for cardiovascular death or HF-related hospitalization. Even greater physiological and clinical benefits appear likely in patients with HF who adhere to a higher volume of exercise (eg, 6 MET-hr per week). The exercise regimen should include an aerobic-type activity performed at least 30 minutes, 5 or more days per week, and at an intensity approximating 55% to 80% of heart rate reserve. Resistance training should be considered for patients who first demonstrate they are able to tolerate aerobic exercise training. Common to other interventions that also rely on human behavior, long-term adherence to exercise in patients with HF remains a challenge and requires additional research to determine strategies aimed at improving compliance. Areas of needed research include identifying which patient subgroup(s) benefits the most and determination of the optimal intensity, duration, and frequency of exercise needed to maximize clinical benefits and attenuate fatigue.

Read the full article on

Dr James Fang discusses the VAD Approach

March 24, 2010

An alternative one-on-one, patient-oriented approach to  heart disease and heart failure

According to James C. Fang, MD, Medical Director, Advanced Heart Failure & Transplant Center and Professor, Case Western Reserve University Department of Medicine, “The mission of the Advanced Heart Failure & Transplant Center is to provide the latest and most effective therapies to patients in Northeast Ohio and surrounding regions in a personalized one-on-one, patient-centered approach.”

With a high level of expertise in treating heart failure, performing heart transplants, and implanting VADs (also known as heart pumps), the Center offers another sophisticated site in Ohio for patients to consider for their heart and vascular health. One of the most important services provided by the physicians at the Center is their ability to review a patient’s current medical and device therapies and then to provide other treatment options to improve their prognosis and quality of life. “At University Hospitals Case Medical Center, we offer many options and a very personalized approach. We are proud of the fact that we offer very individualized care,” says Dr. Fang. “Many patients don’t recognize that they are suffering needlessly.”

The VAD Option
Patients seen at the Center have refractory congestive heart failure and continue to be short of breath despite medications, device therapy (such as biventricular pacemakers) and heart surgery. These patients find that even doing simple activities like taking a shower or sitting in a chair are difficult. In addition, they cannot stay out of the hospital for very long – they are often regularly admitted for shortness of breath and fluid buildup in the legs. Such patients may be candidates for heart transplantation or a VAD.

VADs are sophisticated, miniaturized pumps that help the heart to provide sufficient blood flow throughout the patient’s body. “VADs are the newest form of a mechanical heart,” says Dr. Fang. A healthy heart can normally pump about 5 L of blood per minute around the body at rest. If, for example, a patient’s heart can pump only 1 L of blood per minute, the VAD will pump an additional 4 L, for a total of 5 L of blood per minute. “The heart pump helps,” notes Dr. Fang, “without entirely taking over the function of the heart.”

Typically, heart pumps are used temporarily while a patient awaits a heart transplant. Current first generation VADs, such as the Thoratec Heartmate XVE, are also used as a “destination” therapy – a permanent solution for heart failure. These devices can function for 12 to 18 months before they must be replaced. It is anticipated that a new, second generation of heart pumps, now undergoing investigational study, will increase the duration of ventricular assistance to two to four years. Nationwide about 2,500 heart transplant operations are performed annually and the Advanced Heart Failure & Transplant Center’s heart surgeons have collectively performed hundreds of heart transplants.

Learn more about VADs at