April 30, 2002

Debbie Neufert
Media Relations, LHSC
519-685-8500, ext. 74772


Study shows new device provides better quality of life for heart failure patients

(LONDON, Ontario) Patients with congestive heart failure have an improved quality of life with a new pacemaker that works on both sides of the heart instead of just one. Those are the findings of a first-ever Canadian study completed at London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) and published in the latest issue of the Canadian Journal of Cardiology.

During the two-and-a-half year study, forty-five patients with congestive heart failure were implanted with a new biventricular pacemaker, which places leads or wires into both ventricles of the heart. After receiving the new biventricular pacemaker, two-thirds of the patients experienced less severe symptoms of their heart failure condition and were able to increase their daily activities. This is also the first time pacemakers have been used in congestive heart failure patients to improve their heart function.

Traditionally, pacemaker leads, which monitor the heart beat and keep it on track, are only put into the right side of the heart. The advantage of the biventricular pacemaker is that it allows the heart to be activated from both sides instead of just one, which can affect the coordinated pumping of the heart.

Drs. Andrew Krahn and Raymond Yee, both Arrhythmia Cardiologists at LHSC completed the study.

Dr. Krahn says, "The results are encouraging because many of the patients were able to do more activity without the shortness of breath they had before the new pacemaker. However, more studies with a larger population still need to be completed before we know exactly which patients may benefit the most from the device."

Krahn adds that there are still some challenges with the biventricular pacemaker. The device is more complicated than a traditional pacemaker, therefore the procedure to implant them takes longer, and they are also costly. However, with further study and development Krahn believes these challenges can be overcome and the biventricular pacemakers will be a great benefit to patients.

London Health Sciences Center (LHSC)
Pacemaker study - Fact Sheet

  • LHSC's study is the largest single-centre study to be done and published on biventricular pacemakers in Canada.

  • LHSC is one of the largest pacemaker centres in Canada in terms of patient volumes.

  • Pacemakers are placed inside a patient, just below the collarbone, and have leads or wires that connect to the heart to monitor the heart beat. If the pacemaker detects a slower heart beat it sends an electrical charge through the lead to the heart in order to regulate the heart beat.

  • Traditional pacemakers are used in patients with a slow heart beat (bradycardia) that leads to blackouts, dizziness or occasionally fatigue.

  • Congestive heart failure affects approximately 200,000 Canadians and is the most common reason why people are admitted to the hospital.

  • Congestive heart failure occurs when the heart muscle is not functioning properly, and causes shortness of breath and fatigue, and also has a high death rate.

  • Patients with congestive heart failure generally receive drug treatment, but even with advances in drug treatment some patients still experience shortness of breath and fatigue. If patients have delayed electrical activation of the heart with congestive heart failure, they may be candidates for the new biventricular pacemaker.