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How America's first heart stimulation device is seeing success

The device is a series of electrodes that deliver electrical stimulus directly to the heart's nerves, treating worsening heart failure.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Almost six million Americans are living with heart failure, a condition where the heart can’t pump blood well enough to meet the body’s needs. 

People with heart failure are exhausted; they can feel weak, have trouble breathing, and can have swollen legs and feet. For the first time in the United States, researchers at Ohio State have successfully used an experimental device designed to treat patients with heart failure that is getting worse.

Sixty-six-year-old Robert Dye can’t wait to take his boat out of storage. This is the first time in more than a year he’s had the energy.

“I could not walk any distance. I couldn't even walk from the bed to my recliner without being short-winded,” Robert emphasizes.

One day last fall, Robert couldn’t breathe. He was gray. His limbs were ice cold. At his local hospital, doctors told his wife something terrifying.

“That he was more dead than alive. That was horrible because he's mine and I didn't want anything to happen,” Robert’s wife, Susan, expresses.

Robert had worsening heart failure. Doctors thought he would be a good candidate for an experimental cardiac pulmonary nerve stimulation system, or CPNS.

“The device is actually a series of electrodes that deliver electrical stimulus directly to the nerves,” explains Sitaramesh Emani, MD cardiologist at The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center.

The electrodes sat in a wire basket. Doctors inserted it through a catheter into a vein in Dye’s neck until it reached the artery just behind the heart. The controller was attached to the outside of his neck. For four days, Dye’s doctors delivered stimulation to the nerves on the back of the heart, then removed the device.

Dr. Emani mentions, “We think the heart is beating stronger and better when this therapy is turned on.”

Dye says he felt much better immediately.

“I walked a mile on the hospital floor,” he exclaims.

His wife, Susan, sobs and says, “I wanted to hold his hand because it was warm.”

While Robert Dye was the first in the U.S. to use the CPNS stimulation system, it is also being tested in Europe and South America. It’s important to note that Dr. Emani sits on the Scientific Advisory Board of Cardionomic, the company that manufactured the system.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Shelby Kluver at shelby.kluver@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.

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