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Use What You Have: Biological Assistance for the Treatment of Heart Failure in the Caribbean



Cardiovascular disease represents the main cause of death among adults in the Caribbean. Primary and secondary care facilities are efficiently managed. Cardiac surgical and interventional facilities, however, exist only in a small number of territories and are mainly privately funded and are only accessible to few patients. Patients with end-stage heart failure (ESHF) are given few options apart from palliative care or to seek treatmentoutside of the region. Transplantation remains the ‘gold standard’ therapy for ESHF. Establishing a Caribbeancardiac transplantation programme would require legislative and infrastructure changes. Tissue rejection poses aproblem and expensive immunosuppressants are needed. Mechanical assist devices are costly and associated with complications such as haemorrhage, thrombosis and infections. Both forms of therapy require significant technicaland financial investment and do not appear to be economically viable for the Caribbean. The use of the patient’s own skeletal muscle to perform biological cardiac assistance is potentially the ideal alternative. The skeletalmuscle is conditioned by electrical stimulation to become fatigue resistant. It is then transposed and harnessed asan auxilliary circulatory pump. The required muscle stimulators are relatively inexpensive and the surgical techniques and postoperative care are not overly demanding. We discuss the financial and research implications of treating patients from the Caribbean who have end-stage heart failure.

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e-Published: 04 Jun, 2013
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