New Process Takes Load Off Heart Patients

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Treating congestive heart failure can be tricky. Studies show a third of all patients wind up back in the hospital within a month.

Diagnosed with a weakened heart muscle 12 years ago, 34-year old Gerald Baldwin of Topeka has been in and out of the hospital the past few months. As his heart grew weaker, he said, he felt more and more tired and got to the point where laying down made him sit right back up, gasping for breath.

Dr. Thomas Doyle with Topeka's Cotton-O'Neil Heart Center hopes a procedure called aquapheresis can keep Baldwin out of the hospital for good.

Doyle said, with congestive heart failure, the body's normal mechanism for excreting salt and water begins misfiring, so a person retains more salt and water, leading to symptoms like Baldwin experienced. Diuretic medications can help, but increasing the dose as the heart gets weaker creates a greater risk. Doyle says the medications not only cause a person to lose water, they also cause a loss of potassium and magnesium, creating electrolyte imbalances which can lead to heart rhythm problems and even death.

Aquapheresis is thought to be a better way to help patients shed the water and salt. Through a large IV, blood is removed from the body and run through a filter system which removes the salt and water while leaving the potassium and proteins.

The result is removing more salt and water in a safer manner than with pills, cutting the likelihood of hospital readmissions in half.

While some facilities do the procedure on an outpatient basis, Stormont uses it on an inpatient basis, treating continuously over two to three days. Even with that, Doyle says the procedure cuts down on hospital days for the initial stay and eliminates future stays, thereby cutting costs, plus patients feel dramatically better and the benefits are longer term than just putting patients on more pills.

Baldwin is down 25 pounds in water weight in just two days. He says his breathing is much improved and he feels better.

Stormont's been using aquapheresis since May. So far, the patients treated with it have stayed out of the hospital.


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