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Lifeline tool for heart transplant

Scientists in Nashville, Tennessee, could be throwing a lifeline to patients with life-threatening heart diseases in Calcutta. For, hospitals here are gearing up to introduce state-of-the-art American technology for heart transplants.

Lifesaving artificial heart devices, known as Heartmate, featuring a battery back-up to adjust heart rate, are said to extend the life expectancy of patients with serious heart diseases for over a year. And they are expected to be available in two city hospitals to begin with, within months.

The technology, hailed as “a miracle cure” by doctors at Calcutta’s Apollo Gleneagles and AMRI Apollo hospitals, is expected to dramatically improve quality of life for patients with terminal cardiac failure.

“This is an extremely exciting development,” said Dr Ramesh Sheshadhari, chief cardio-vascular surgeon at Apollo Gleneagles, who recently returned from a fact-finding mission to the US. “I saw American heart patients exercising on treadmills and enjoying an active life after being fitted with the Heartmate devices. Demand in India is going to be enormous, with the promise of extending the life span of so many patients dying from terminal cardiac failure.”

The introduction could leave the Jarvick’s artificial heart currently in use in India obsolete, feel doctors. The price tag, of course, is forbidding, with a single device to be made available in India for “Rs 616,560, discounted from the Rs 19 lakh in the US”.

Sheshadhari, however, does not foresee affordability as a hurdle, as the Heartmate bottomline remains comparable to the Rs 6 lakh that patients now pay for the standard Auto Implantable Cardiac Defilibrator today. And in the long run, Heartmate is expected to become more affordable.

“I already have two patients in Calcutta ready for transplant, and I’m in contact with various intensive-care hospitals in the city to get the programme going. If I can complete three Heartmate transplants within the first year, I will regard it as a great success,” said Sheshadhari, due to visit Tennessee again in the coming weeks to finalise the deal.

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