Cardiac Resynchronization: Breakthrough Therapy for Heart Failure

Richard Higgins is back to his active life thanks to a heart-boosting device

Richard Higgins said he felt like his life had been slowly draining from his body. Diagnosed two years ago with heart failure – a debilitating chronic condition affecting approximately 5 million Americans – Higgins experienced shortness of breath so severe he would have to stop and rest after getting in and out of his car.

But thanks to a revolutionary new cardiac treatment he received at Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla, the 43-year-old attorney is resuming his normal activities and is “chomping at the bit” to finish the landscaping around his Alpine home.

Higgins was the first patient in San Diego to receive the InSync® system, a pacemaker/defibrillator-type device that boosts the beats of weak hearts in patients with congestive heart failure. The device was implanted in Higgins’ chest on July 2, 2002, and he was discharged less than 24 hours later. “After being released from the hospital we stopped for a steak dinner on the way home,” he said. “The difference in how I was feeling was that dramatic. Besides, I was hungry!”

How Resynchronization Therapy Works

Approved in August 2001 by the Food and Drug Admnistration, InSync® was evaluated during the MIRACLE (Multicenter InSync® Randomized Clinical Evaluation) study—the largest, most comprehensive study of resynchronization therapy to date. The results from MIRACLE demonstrated that resynchronization helps many people with moderate-to-severe heart failure live better, more active lives despite their condition.

Cardiac resynchronization therapy uses a small, surgically implanted pacemaker-like device to deliver tiny electrical impulses to the heart muscle to resynchronize the contractions of the lower chambers of the heart. Resynchronizing these contractions enables the heart to pump blood more efficiently throughout the body.

When used in conjunction with drug therapy and dietary and lifestyle modifications, resynchronization therapy can dramatically improve exercise capacity, quality of life and heart function—-enabling many patients to resume more active lives.

“We are extremely pleased we can offer patients who suffer from this devastating cardiovascular condition the opportunity to lead active lives again with this new treatment,” said Thomas Ahern, MD, the Scripps La Jolla cardiac electrophysiologist who performed Higgins’ procedure.

Cardiac resynchronization therapy signals a new era in device-based solutions for this condition. About 750,000 of the estimated 5 million Americans with heart failure could potentially benefit from it. Every year in the United States, physicians diagnose about 550,000 cases of heart failure, and $40 billion is spent on treatment.

Cardiac resynchronization therapy is also offered at Scripps Green Hospital and Scripps Mercy Hospital.

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Lisa Ohmstede
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