The revolutionary Equilia system, meant to treat heart failure, has been successfully implanted for the first time in a clinical study . The developer of the system, Sorin Group, is an Italian medical device company, leader in the treatment of cardiovascular diseases.

Heart failure is a chronic progressive disease in which the heart can no longer pump enough blood to meet the needs of the body. An estimated 22M people in Europe and the US suffer from this disease and associated syndromes such as sleep apnea, cardiac arrhythmia and diabetes. Not only does the disease have low survival rates, but it also generates high hospital costs for the healthcare systems. Moreover, due to their unstable cardiac condition, heart failure patients have a very high hospital readmission rate.

The cardiovascular disease has been shown to be associated with an imbalance in the autonomic nervous system that controls cardiac activity. This imbalance, a reduction in parasympathetic activity and an increase in sympathetic activity, overstresses the heart and contributes to the worsening of heart failure. By stimulating the vagus nerve, the Equilia system is expected to normalize the autonomic asymmetry. The system consists of a small device implanted under the skin in the patient’s chest that delivers electrical pulses via a lead placed around the vagus nerve in the neck area.

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Neurostimulation is expected to prolong heart failure patients’ survival, improve their quality of life and reduce the number of hospital readmissions. I believe the Equilia system has the potential to bring significant benefits to heart failure patients” said Professor Albert Hagège, Head of the Cardiology Department at the Hôpital Européen Georges Pompidou in Paris, and principal investigator in the Vanguard study.

Implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs), or Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy devices (CRT-D or CRT-P) may be indicated for some patients; however, the vast majority are not candidates for these therapies. This new system based in vagus nerve stimulation may offer a new device-based therapeutic option for these patients.

It may not help if you have an aching heart in next Saint Valentin’s day but certainly these are promising news for heart failure patients. <3

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