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High-Tech Hearts

High technology continues to improve the lives of those with heart problems.

The latest are implantable devices for the heart, which are helping improve quality of life and save more lives than ever before.

The Early Show medical correspondent Dr. Emily Senay explains how the high-tech implants help overcome heart disease.

Heart Resynchronizer

Heart failure causes the two ventricles of the heart to beat out of synch. Implants called resynchronizers have proven to be very effective in getting the heart to beat in synch again by delivering electrical pulses to the ventricles.

Now, the latest generation of devices is combining the resynchronizer with a defibrillator in one implant. The defibrillator component monitors for other abnormal rhythms and shocks them back into a normal rhythm in addition to the resynchronizer component.

Resynchronizer-Defibrillator Implants

The latest research shows that the combo device provides even greater benefits than the resycnhronizer alone.

New research shows the resynchronizer alone cut the risk of hospitalization or death from heart failure by 34 percent compared to patients who received standard drug therapy. A combination pacemaker-defibrillator reduced the risk by 40 percent.

Senay says some patients eventually require a heart transplant, but unfortunately there are not enough hearts available to go around. One option to prolong life while a patient waits for a transplant are implantable heart pumps that can help one ventricle of the heart pump properly.

Syncardia Artificial Heart

And for even sicker patients, an artificial heart called the CardioWest has been recently recommended for FDA approval. It requires cutting out the bottom half of the heart to replace the ventricles. Patients implanted with the device are tethered to a washing machine-sized power generator until they can receive a donor heart.

Senay says the risk of the device include bleeding, infection and blood clots. But, it has proven to be a lifesaver for certain patients who have run out of other options.

AbioCor Artificial Heart

Trials are still underway with the AbioCor fully-implantable artificial heart. The softball-sized AbioCor is powered by batteries and has no wires or tubes sticking through the skin. It's the only artificial heart with a goal of completely replacing the heart.

The AbioCor was most recently implanted in another patient in Kentucky this week, the second implantation this month. Both patients are still alive in critical but stable condition, according to the surgeons. Twelve others have died after receiving the heart, the longest living for 17 months and able to return home from the hospital during that time.

For more information about artificial hearts, click here to visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine Web site.

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