A 35-year-old Kiryat Malachi man this week became the first in Israel to undergo the implantation in his chest of a unique pulse generator – developed in Israel – that delivers electrical impulses to the heart for treatment of moderate to severe heart failure.

Called Optimizer, the device is made by the US company Impulse Dynamics and has been proven successful on patients in the US and Europe.

Kobi Haddad, who is waiting for a heart transplant, underwent the procedure at Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot and immediately benefited from improved heart performance; similar heart failure patients will soon follow.

His Kaplan cardiologist, Prof, Kobi George, said the Optimizer is a “revolutionary device that allows cardiac insufficiency patients waiting for a transplant to improve their quality of life and daily functioning.”

After the procedure, Haddad said he had great hopes that “with the help of the wonderful and professional doctors and nurses in Kaplan, I will be able again to carry out tasks that healthy people find completely trivial. The sensitivity and hope they gave me here give me real optimism that I will be able to have a normal life even without a heart transplant.”

George, who is chief of cardiology, along with Dr. Ofir Paz and Dr. Moshe Suissa, implanted the device, which is suited for “patients suffering from significant decline in the ability of their heart muscle to contract” and thus have a reduced amount of oxygenated blood flowing through their blood vessels.

Such patients find it difficult to perform the simplest routine tasks such as walking, and their condition is liable to speedily decline, they explained.

Cardiac insufficiency is the main cause of death in people over the age of 65 and the most common cause of hospitalization in this group. Recent advances in cardiology have made it possible to extend the lives of cardiac patients, but many of them still suffer from insufficiency.

Unlike other heart-failure devices, the Optimizer works by strengthening the pumping force of the heart. The Optimizer System modulates the strength of the heart’s contractions rather than controlling its rhythm.

Patients who qualify for the Optimizer System undergo a surgical procedure similar to putting in a pacemaker. Typically, the surgery takes about four to five hours and requires three leads to be implanted into the heart.

The New York-based company’s Israeli technology research center that developed the Optimizer, Impulse Dynamics (Israel) Ltd., is located in Ness Ziona. The device, first tested in 2001, looks like an ordinary pacemaker or defibrillator and is installed in a similar way; it operates on an internal battery that is charged from outside the body once a week for about 90 minutes.

Every month, 20 or 30 patients at leading medical centers in the US and Europe are routinely implanted with the Optimizer.

According to University of Texas-Southwestern Prof. Jose Joglar, who is co-investigator of a study on the Optimizer, the device “could benefit up to two-thirds of advanced heartfailure patients who may not qualify for other kinds of therapy.”

Heart failure affects an estimated 15 million patients worldwide.

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