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Heart Failure Treatments Offer New Hope

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Lead researcher David J. Bradley, MD, PhD, and colleagues reviewed four clinical trials comparing patients with heart failure who got the special pacemakers with those who did not get them. Patients who received the pacemaker therapy, known as cardiac resynchronization, had improved heart function, improved exercise capacity, and improved quality of life. At three to six months follow-up, 1.7% of the pacemaker patients had died compared with 3.5% of those without pacemakers. Heart failure-related hospitalizations were also reduced by 29% among pacemaker patients.

Bradley tells WebMD that pacemakers represent a promising treatment option for patients who have had few options in the past. The devices may also allow patients to tolerate larger doses of beta-blocker drugs.

"Beta-blockers tend to slow the heart down, but the pacemakers prevent that from happening," he says. "Right now we don't know just how big an impact there will be for patients treated with both of these therapies, but it is very exciting."

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