"Support Hose" For The Heart

(CBS) A "simple but ingenious" new procedure appears to offer hope that heart failure patients can have much more normal lives.

HeartNet is just what its name implies -- a net placed around the heart to support it, giving patients much more pep.

In Part One of The Early Show series "HeartScore" on Monday, Dr. Simon Maybaum, Medical Director of the Center for Advanced Cardiac Therapy at Montefiore-Einstein Heart Center in New York, told co-anchor Harry Smith, "There are five million patients with congestive heart failure in the United States. And, when the heart muscle becomes weak, the heart becomes to enlarge. In fact, some heart failure patients can have huge hearts, and that puts a stretch on the heart muscle cells and on the walls of the heart.

"And eventually, when the pump becomes weak, patients become very symptomatic, with shortness of breath and tiredness, and they retain fluid in various parts of their body."

But, Maybaum said, HeartNet could change that. "It supports the walls of the dilated heart and takes stress off those heart muscle cells, hopefully to make the heart smaller and stronger," he explained. "It's (the net) put in through a very small incision on the side of the chest through a miniaturized delivery system. And the whole procedure takes about an hour." He described it as a "simple but ingenious idea."

"In the United States," Maybaum noted, "this is part of a really fascinating trial at 29 centers. ... And it's one of the most exciting things that we're studying at Montefiore Medical Center."

HeartNet recipient Antoinette Jackson says she "jumped" at the prospect when doctors first approached her about getting it a year-and-a-half ago. "At the time," she recalled for Smith, "I was in jeopardy of being put on a heart transplant list. And I'm a survivor. So I'm willing to fight, do what I need to do to be there.

Things had gotten so bad, Jackson says, she "was unable to even dress myself, bathe myself without assistance. I wasn't able to go out of the house. I was a prisoner in my own home," suffering from shortness of breath and unable to go from point-to-point without assistance.

"Before the procedure," Jackson says, "I was able to walk eight minutes on a treadmill. Now I can do 12-and-ahalf minutes. I can do ten minutes on my (exercise) bike at home. I've lost 40 pounds. Life is much better. And this April, I'll be 43 years old! ... I'm feeling good. Life is good again!"

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