Heart Failure Treatment "Spectacularly" More Efficient in Women

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An implantable device for heart failure treatment called cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT-D) was found to be spectacularly more efficient in women than in men. Typically reserved for the most serious cases of heart failure this study paves the way to making this life-saving treatment available to a wider range of patients.

The device, known as CRT-D, is implanted in patients and works by intervening in the electrical impulses of the heart so that it can pump more efficiently. It also has a special defibrillator function which senses life threatening abnormalities in the heart rhythm and delivers a shock to restore normal rhythm.

The study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, looked at 1,820 patients with a CRT-D device implanted for heart failure. The results showed that women had 70 percent reduction in heart failure compared to men who only had a 35 percent reduction. Furthermore, the women also had 72 percent reduction death from all causes.

Researcher Arthur J. Moss, MD confirmed, “We did find unexpectedly that women did spectacularly better than men.” The researchers do not know why this happened, but suggest that it could be due to women having smaller hearts and have more episodes where the two parts of their hearts don't beat in synch.

Heart Failure in American Women

Heart failure is a chronic and irreversible condition to which there is no cure. Contrary to what it's name suggests, this condition is diagnosed when the heart is not working as well as it should, not a complete failure. The heart becomes weak and cannot keep up with the workload of the body. Symptoms of heart failure include fatigue, shortness of breath, swelling, persistent coughing and decrease appetite.

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The biggest contributing factor to this condition in women is a history of cardiovascular disease. However, other factors that impact the development of heart failure include being overweight, smoking, poor diet, inactivity, and diseases such as sleep apnea, lung disease, and diabetes.

In a revolving sideshow appearing on the American Heart Association website's home page today there is attention being called to the great impact that heart disease has on women in the U.S. The sides state that:

  • “90 percent of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease.”
  • “Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death among women 20 and over, killing about one woman every minute.”
  • “Heart disease is responsible for more deaths in women that the next four causes of death combined.”

Treating Heart Failure

Right now there is no cure for this condition. However, there are several different medications and treatment modalities that are available for use in these patients. CRT-D is one of the more invasive and costly treatment options and therefore has been used conservatively in patients up to this point. But now, with this study, the researchers have proven that the life-saving potential of the CRT-D device would justify these means, especially in women.

“We have known that people with advanced heart failure benefit, but what we have not known is that even people with early deterioration will benefit and that the magnitude of the benefit in women is greater than in men,” says Ranjit Suri, MD, the director of the Electrophysiology Service and Cardiac Arrhythmia Center at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York.

Right now, more research is needed to understand exactly why the CRT-D treatment is more effective in women and how this can be improved in the treatment of men.

This page is updated on May 12, 2013.

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