put the squeeze on a lagging heart

Balloons and clowns supposedly make people happy. I've always thought clowns were a bit scary, myself, but I'm there on the balloons. Now one particular balloon has the potential to make thousands of currently-inoperable heart patients very, very happy.

The Sunshine Heart is a new device which addresses the problem of weak heart action in a novel way. A toroidal balloon, similar to a blood-pressure monitoring cuff, is wrapped around the ascending aorta and a sensor attached to the heart. The balloon cuff gives an extra squeeze at the appropriate time, acting as a booster pump. A particularly nice feature is that the bloodstream itself is not compromised-- the device is completely external to the circulatory system. This drastically reduces certain types of complication, such as clotting or platelet buildup.

While in no way a miracle cure, it is likely to give people with certain types of heart failure the ability to live a much more normal life. Currently as many as 30% of heart cases are not suitable for invasive implant therapy such as a pacemaker. This technology holds out a great deal of promise for those folks. They're taking an interesting development approach, too, one component of which is offshoring in Australia.


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