Heart therapy good for men, great for women
February 7th, 2011
05:03 PM ET

Heart therapy good for men, great for women

For the first time, a therapy to prevent heart failure has proved to be more effective in women than men.

Cardiac resynchronization therapy with defibrillator (CRT-D), a treatment designed to prevent sudden cardiac death by using a defibrillator to shock the heart back into rhythm, provided a significant benefit to women over men, a study shows. Women had a 70% reduction in heart failure compared with 35% in men. Women had a 72% reduction in death the study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found.

"In prior cardiac studies, men and women generally received similar benefit from preventive medical therapy," said cardiologist Arthur J. Moss, professor of medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center and the study's lead author. "Our finding was unexpected, but extremely important because this is the only heart treatment that is clearly better in women than men."

In fact, Moss says women had considerably better outcomes across the board. "It's not that men did poorly in the trial, but rather, women had really fantastic results, likely due to the type of heart disease we see more commonly in women."

Researchers say that's because the women participating in the study typically had non-ischemic heart disease, where there was inflammatory scarring of the heart muscle, but the men were more likely to have ischemic heart disease–also know as coronary artery disease–where narrowed arteries restrict blood flow and oxygen to the heart.

Women also were more likely to have a condition called left bundle branch block–an obstruction or delay along the pathway that electrical impulses travel to make the heart beat. It can make it more difficult for the heart to pump blood efficiently through the circulatory system.

More than 1,800 patients participated in the study. A quarter of the participants were women.

"This is a positive study for this subset of patients with congestive heart failure, both men and women," said Dr. Myrna Alexander Nickens, a cardiologist and  spokeswoman for the American Heart Association. But Nickens cautions, "This is not a device for everybody. This is a device for patients presenting with chronic heart failure. You need to give them a chance to improve with the standard of care which is medication."

The CRT-D was developed by Boston Scientific and was originally approved for patients with severe heart failure.  Doctors don't have to open the patient's chest- the catheter is inserted into a vein in the left side of the heart. It stimulates the heart improving the contraction pattern. Last fall, the Food and Drug Administration extended the CRT-D's approval to include patients with mild heart failure making about 4 million more Americans eligible for treatment with the device.

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women 20 years and older in the United States, killing one woman every minute according to the AHA. The organization says 90% of women have one or more risk factors for developing the disease, and more women in this country die of heart disease than the next four causes of death combined. That includes all types of cancer.

Moss says this therapy is already available for patients with advanced heart failure. This new study shows that now patients with heart disease who are at risk, but have not yet developed heart failure, can benefit greatly from this treatment.

soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. Thurston Murray

    This is really great news, and I commend those who participated and conducted the study. Well done! I have cornary artery disease myself, probably caused by harsh Radiation Treatment I received to help cure Male Breast Cancer 28 years ago. Life is good.......Hey Boston Scientific I have one of your stents (Taxus ll). Keep up the good work and soon we will be able to make a huge dent in Heart Disease. Sincerely, Thurston Murray

    February 8, 2011 at 08:49 | Report abuse | Reply
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