NEWS

Major steps for treating chronic cardiac disease

Major advances have been made recently in the treatment of cardiovascular disease. «Angioplasty with stents is gaining ground,» said Toutouzas, «due to the new types which are impregnated with medicines that prevent arteries from narrowing again.» In only 5 percent of cases today in which the treatment is used have arteries narrowed again, as opposed to the 20 or 30 percent before. Bypasses are being limited to difficult cases, where valve complexity makes stent use impossible. «For this reason, surgical mortality in bypasses is increasing worldwide,» said Toutouzas. Advances have also been seen in cardiac insufficiency. Due to the lack of heart transplant organs, experts have concentrated on other means of dealing with cardiac insufficiency, one of them being the implantation of an artificial heart as a temporary measure until the right transplant is found. The mechanism rests the heart, pumping the blood from the left ventricle and then again into the aorta. The renowned heart surgeon Magdi Yacoub has researched ways of applying this method as a permanent treatment for cardiac insufficiency. First, he implants the device, then, when the healthy myocardium (heart muscle) returns to its natural weight (which changes in patients with cardiac insufficiency), he prescribes the drug clenbuterole (known for its illegal use by athletes as an anabolic steroid), in order to boost myocardial fiber. The better-fed muscle means the heart contracts and works harder, and the supporting device is removed. Stem cell research is also hopeful. Bone marrow stem cells from the patient are introduced into the affected myocardium, where they develop into healthy cells. «For the moment,» Toutouzas said, «attempts are confined to patients in the last stages of cardiac insufficiency, and appear encouraging. But results from the method lie in the future.» As for the future of cardiovascular disease treatment, «obviously, research in the field of genetics will continue but we won’t have, at least in the near future, important practical results.» Interventional methods, including «less invasive procedures with stents or other interventions, will see a considerable increase so that we can bypass arteries more easily, benefiting the treatment of strokes, heart attacks and blood circulation in the legs.» Surgical intervention in cardiovascular disease will also be able to tackle aneurysms in the aorta and obstructions in the arteries of the lower limbs and the brain. Progress in the diagnostic sector will also be important. Thus, blood tests will provide better indicators of the possibility of the appearance of cardiovascular disease, while locating inflammation «will help with decisions on prevention and also in the manufacture of the wonder drug that will prevent inflammation.»