February 14, 2020
Dr. Peter Eckman, Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation® (MHIF) researcher and heart failure section head for the Minneapolis Heart Institute®, recently talked about heart disease on the KDUZ Radio Community Affairs program in Hutchinson, Minn., with host Lester Schuft. Dr. Eckman answered a wide variety of questions about heart disease symptoms, diagnostic tests, and various treatments and research for patients with heart failure, his particular area of expertise. Currently, between 5 and 6 million people in the U.S. have heart failure.
“The incidence (of heart failure) is increasing pretty substantially and as the population ages, we expect we’re going to see a lot more of it in the future,” said Dr. Eckman. “Heart failure is also the #1 reason why people are hospitalized in this country and so it’s a humongous health problem.”
Dr. Eckman explained some of the treatments for heart failure, which include a left ventricular assist device (LVAD), a type of heart pump that helps the heart pump when the heart muscle is very weak. He also discussed heart transplants — how donor hearts are acquired and transported, the different criteria that are used to match heart donors and recipients, and some exciting research that is currently taking place.
“Right now, the only hearts that are used are from donors who are brain dead … the most common reasons are from an accident … or something that causes irreversible brain damage,” Dr. Eckman explained. “One of the things that we’re very excited about is that there has been some work looking at donors who may not meet all the criteria for brain death, but are otherwise likely to die — is there a way that we could still potentially use that heart? There’s some research that may help expand the number of hearts that are available for people waiting for transplants.”
Dr. Eckman also talked about a new clinical research trial being conducted at MHIF on the use of the investigational TransMedics Organ Care System (OCS™), often referred to as a “Heart-in-a-Box.”
“There’s a new technique that we’ve been involved with that we’re very excited about where we take about a liter of the donor’s blood and can put it on a machine that keeps the heart pumping while we transport it. So the heart is still circulating blood … it’s still getting oxygen … it’s still pumping … there’s a lot of excitement about that. We think that not only might that be a safer way to keep the heart alive while we’re moving it from one person to the next — it also gives us a bigger window of storage. So instead of needing to get that heart in within four hours, now we have up to maybe eight hours. That also makes it easier so now if we get an offer of a (donor) heart in Los Angeles, we can actually go get it, whereas using the (existing) cooler approach, we don’t have enough time due to the flight time.”
Listen to the full interview below.