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Medical University of Vienna: New methods train heart muscles with microcurrent

surgeons © Medical University of Vienna

In so-called dilative cardiomyopathy, the heart muscle becomes pathologically enlarged so that it can no longer contract sufficiently. The current treatment attempts to stabilize patients for as long as possible by means of optimized drug treatment. Subsequently, they can be stabilised by technological devices such as special pacemaker systems. The treatment of last resort for terminal heart failure is biological replacement (heart transplant) or mechanical replacement (ventricular assist devices).

In a study conducted by the Medical University of Vienna/Vienna General Hospital, a new type of device has been successfully used for the very first time to strengthen the weakened heart muscle in cardiomyopathy patients. An implanted pulse generator exercises the heart muscle using a microcurrent, thus stimulating the damaged heart muscle to regenerate. Ideally, this can save the patient from a heart transplant operation or at least delay the need for one. The surgical technique is minimally invasive. The device is implanted under general anaesthetic via two small incisions. One electrode takes the form of an extensive patch on the outside of the heart muscle, while the other sits in the ventricle. A small, fully implanted device then emits a microcurrent, stimulates the affected heart muscle and causes it to regenerate.

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