Special Report: Heart Jacket
But now there's new hope. It's called the heart jacket and it helps stop the deterioration of the muscle.
Pat Brough had been suffering for years with cardiomyopathy: a condition where the heart muscle becomes inflamed and doesn't work as well as it should.
"Shortness of breath, could not get my breath, I would wake up in the middle of the night gasping like somebody just put a pillow over my head."
Pat Brough, Patient
Pat's health began to deteriorate rapidly. She was one step away from needing a heart transplant. That's when she decided to get a "heart jacket" - a flexible mesh device that would helps stop the progression of heart failure.
"What's happening with people with heart failure is their hearts get bigger, and bigger is bad. Bigger means there is more tension on the heart and with the bigger hearts they retain fluid, they are short of breath and the heart stops squeezing as well."
Dr. Michael Acker, University of Pennsylvania
The actual "jacket" is made of specially woven polyester. It's flexible and ravel-resistant. It's placed around the heart and stitched in place, permanently. It acts like a girdle - returning the heart to its normal size.
"This device is designed to be placed around the heart so that it prevents the stretching of the heart muscle and relieves the stress on the heart muscle."
Dr. Kamal Khabbaz, Tufts NEMC
It helped Pat. Since her surgery, she's wasted no time taking back her life.
"I've been parasailing, horseback riding, things I have never done before. And we have grandchildren and travel all over the United States to visit them."
Pat Brough, Patient
The heart jacket has been used in Europe for the past 6 years. In the United States - it has gone through clinical trials in 28 hospitals including Tufts New England Medical Center. According to Dr. Ackerman, the heart jacket has a good chance of becoming FDA approved this spring.