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Device shows promise for heart-failure patients

Heart failure is characterized by a heart muscle that is weak, stretched out, and flabby, and therefore unable to pump enough blood. Patients with advanced disease have trouble walking more than a few steps without gasping for breath.

A new cuff-like device is designed to help patients by doing some of the pumping for them.

The cuff is wrapped around the ascending aorta, and it contains a plastic balloon that squeezes in time with the patient’s heartbeat, apparently providing relief to some patients in a small study published this month.

The study followed just 20 patients, including one who received the implant at Pennsylvania State University’s Hershey Medical Center, and it had a primary goal of showing the surgery was feasible. Still, the results are reason for cautious optimism, said lead author William T. Abraham, an Ohio State University cardiologist.

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