Hearts are essential to our very existence – they give us vitality from even before we are born. Sadly, however, the leading cause of death worldwide is heart disease (cardiovascular disease).
According to the World Health Organization (WHO):
- Deaths due to heart disease represent about 30% of total deaths worldwide
- Approx. 80% of deaths due to heart disease occur due to heart attacks and strokes
- Unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, and excessive consumption of tobacco and alcohol are the most common triggers of heart disease
Advances in cardiovascular technology over the last half-century have given people suffering from heart disease a better shot at survival. Medical devices for hearts that can diagnose, treat, and monitor heart disease and that have improved the quality of life for these people. Medical devices for heart transplant surgery play an instrumental role in the success of those surgeries.
What are some groundbreaking medical devices for hearts, and how can medical translation of content surrounding these devices help save lives around the world?
Heart Failure Monitoring Systems
Heart failure monitoring systems are medical devices for comprehensive heart failure care. They use a tiny sensor to measure pulmonary artery (blood vessel that moves blood from the heart to the lungs) pressure and heart rate. Patients use an electronic unit included with the system to take daily measurements and send them to medical professionals wirelessly. Directly monitoring pulmonary artery pressure allows for early detection of worsening heart failure even before a patient feels other symptoms such as weight gain or blood pressure changes.
Heart Failure monitoring sytems have made a tremendous impact on preventive care for heart failure patients – a 33% decrease in heart failure hospital admissions over an average of 18 months as well as shorter stays when hospitalization is needed.
A stent is a small tube-like medical device that is placed within a blood vessel that causes the blood vessel to expand. Coronary stents are intended specifically for coronary arteries (large blood vessels that supply blood to the heart). Stents can reduce the risk of blood vessel blockage, and can be coated with medication to prevent a blocked artery from closing.
Stents are generally made using metals such as iron, magnesium, zinc, and their alloys. These stents do not dissolve and remain in the patient’s body unless they are physically removed. Side effects may include restricted natural blood flow, blood clots, infection, or stent thrombosis (blockage or closing of the blood vessel caused by exposure to a permanent foreign body).
Bioabsorbable stents are stents that are made from naturally dissolving polymers, such as poly-L-lactide, tyrosine poly carbonate, or salicylic acid. Although the first FDA-approved bioabsorbable stent was only introduced into the US market in 2017, these stents have been available in Europe since 2011. Bioabsorbable stents lower the risk of stent thrombosis, and will dissolve into the body after two to three years. So far, bioabsorbable stents have struggled in the market due to higher price, and also because certain areas to improve stent performance have been identified. A second generation of bioabsorbable stents is currently being developed.
A pacemaker is a medical device that emits electrical impulses which help the heart maintain an appropriate heart rate or stimulate the heart’s lower chambers (ventricles). Conventional pacemakers have leads (wires) and a generator which requires replacement every 5-10 years. These pacemakers are placed inside a surgical incision on the patient’s chest, after which the doctor connects leads from the pacemaker through the patient’s veins to the heart. Conventional pacemakers cause a lump under the skin on the chest where the device resides and may result in minor discomfort. The scars from surgeries for conventional pacemaker insertion and generator replacement may be a cosmetic concern for patients.
Leadless pacemakers do not require leads, generators, or a surgical pocket in the chest for pacemaker insertion. These are the leading causes of conventional pacemaker complications, and not having to deal with them makes life easier for both doctors and patients. A catheter is used to place the leadless pacemaker in the right ventricle of the heart, a procedure that generally takes less time than that for a conventional pacemaker. Leadless pacemakers allow a patient to move their upper body freely after placement within the heart, and reduce the risk of infection within the veins, chest, and heart. Medtronic’s Micra and St. Jude Medical’s Nanostim are two types of leadless pacemakers currently on the market.
Warm Blood Perfusion System (“Heart in a Box”)
Heart transplant surgery is a procedure for patients with severe heart failure or coronary artery disease when all other medical options have failed. Heart transplants are not a cure for heart disease, but can substantially improve the quality of life of people suffering from it. Donor hearts are stored in an extremely cold preservation solution and transported to recipients in coolers. This process risks damage to the hearts – in some cases the hearts can no longer be used. There are around 50,000 heart transplant candidates worldwide, but only 5,000 candidates receive heart transplants. Considering the severe shortage of heart donors, maximizing donor heart survivability during storage and transport is paramount.
Warm blood perfusion systems can prolong a heart’s survivability outside the body. Developed by TransMedics, these systems continuously vitalize donor hearts with oxygen, blood, and nutrients. Warm blood perfusion systems keep hearts warm and functional in a controlled, sterile environment, and can even revive hearts that have stopped beating for nearly 20 minutes. A 30% increase in donated hearts is expected because of these systems, as they are a safer option for storing and transporting donor hearts.
Hearts on Chips
Clinical trials for cardiovascular drugs involve testing on both human and animal hearts. Many such drugs do not reach the human trials stage because of cardiac toxicity (damage to the heart by chemical compounds). Furthermore, the pharmaceutical industry is less willing than before to invest in cardiovascular drug testing due to time required, early and late stage failures, strict regulation, and the clinical trial bureaucracy.
“Heart on a chip” technology models a human heart on a microchip and uses microelectrodes to measure the impact of drugs for heart disease on heart tissue. This technology is aimed at lessening the dependence on animals and humans for clinical trials, accelerating these trials, and ensuring these drugs are safe and effective for humans. A “heart on a chip” can simultaneously and non-invasively measure heart contraction, electrophysiology, and heart tissue growth. Studying these functions can help identify cardiac problems caused by the drug in early clinical trial stages. “Heart on a chip” technology enables testing of many drugs at once, allowing researchers to collect a much larger amount of data which helps reduce the time and money required to develop cardiovascular drugs that are compliant with regulation. With “heart on a chip” technology, hopefully a rise in cardiovascular drugs on the market is in store.
Approximately 17 million people worldwide die from heart disease every year. Over 75% of deaths from heart disease occur in developing countries. The medical devices for hearts highlighted above can prevent loss of life due to heart disease, as well as improve the quality of life of millions of surviving heart patients. Medical documentation on these medical devices is often available only in English, limiting the awareness of the world’s non-English speaking populations about such technology. Medical translation of the content surrounding these medical devices for hearts into foreign languages will broaden the global reach of this technology, and in doing so, help to save and improve the lives of millions of heart patients around the world.
If you have medical software or medical documentation for translation, why not click below to have a “heart to heart” with a SimulTrans expert on medical translation services? We’d jump at the opportunity to work with you to fight heart disease and other medical conditions through translation of medical content “in a heartbeat!”