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AMERICAN MORNING WITH PAULA ZAHN

Studies Show Advances in Heart Disease Treatment

Aired March 19, 2002 - 09:22   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Turning now to your health news. Doctors are calling it pretty big news this morning, a way to shock a heart that has stopped beating with a device the size of a pager. CNN Medical Correspondent Rhonda Rowland joins me now from Atlanta with this and some other exciting health news -- good morning, Rhonda.

RHONDA ROWLAND, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Anderson. As you said, this is big news. Just minutes ago, doctors right next door at the American College of Cardiology meeting presented new information on a study of this device.

It is called an implantable defibrillator. To help you understand what it is, when you watch shows like "ER," doctors or the EMTs will have two paddles, and they put it on a patient's chest to shock it if they have had a heart attack. Well now, they have put that same technology into this little device.

It looks like pace maker, and we have an animation to show you exactly how it works. This device is actually implanted in the chest, and two leads, or wires, go into the heart, and it can detect if the heart has abnormal rhythm, an abnormal heart beat. You can see that happening right now in the heart, and then it shocks it into normal beating. So this can actually help people whose hearts have stopped.

Now, in this particular study, they found that this reduced deaths by 31 percent, and this was in patients who had a previous heart attack and also had mild to moderate heart failure. And Anderson, the doctors told us that this result is very, very dramatic. Because typically, when you give patients drugs, maybe you get an improvement in death rates of 20 to 25 percent, so to see this 31 percent drop in deaths is quite amazing, it could save tens of thousands of lives worldwide.

COOPER: Now Rhonda, when this shock goes to the heart, does the person continue functioning? Do they act like nothing has happened, or is it a visible reaction?

ROWLAND: Well, we talked to a patient who actually had one of these, and what happens if you have this abnormal rhythm, you may feel it, or you may actually kind of faint, and then at that time, it will actually shock you, and it is quite a dramatic shock. And usually, this happens over a period of only, say, 30 seconds, and patients will wake up and not even know what happened. The trouble is, Anderson, sometimes this device will actually go off when it is not supposed to, and so it is quite a dramatic shock, so you certainly only want this if you really need it, and for those people, it is really like an insurance policy.

COOPER: Now, I understand the vice president, Dick Cheney, has this device, but he has also got another thing in his heart, this stent. It is a new kind of stent, and there was some news about it yesterday. What is the latest about this stent, and what's so exciting about it?

ROWLAND: You are absolutely right. Last June, the vice president had this particular little defibrillator put in, and he also previously had a stent put in, and that is to open up a blocked artery. And he, along with one in five other patients who have that procedure, can have it reblocked up again, because scar tissue forms.

So what doctors are really excited about is a new generation of stents that are actually bathed in medications, and they slowly emit, once they are put into the body. And what they found, what was so amazing, is it worked in 100 percent of the patients, in two studies. One that followed a small group of patients for two years, another for six months, and what that means is none of these patients had to go back to hospital, and there were no deaths. So, Anderson, some exciting advances in heart disease.

COOPER: Well, that's great for all of us history of heart disease in our family, it is very good news. Thanks very much, Rhonda Rowland.

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