Chronic vagus nerve stimulation: a new and promising therapeutic approach for chronic heart failure

Gaetano M. De Ferrari*, Harry J. G. M. Crijns, Martin Borggrefe, Goran Milasinovic, Jan Smid, Markus Zabel, Antonello Gavazzi, Antonio Sanzo, Robert Dennert, Juergen Kuschyk, Srdjan Raspopovic, Helmut Klein, Karl Swedberg, Peter J. Schwartz

*Corresponding author for this work

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312 Citations (Web of Science)

Abstract

Aims In chronic heart failure (CHF), reduced vagal activity correlates with increased mortality and acute decompensation. Experimentally, chronic vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) improved left ventricular (LV) function and survival; clinically, it is used for the treatment of drug-refractory epilepsy. We assessed safety and tolerability of chronic VNS in symptomatic CHF patients, using a novel implantable nerve stimulation system. The secondary goal was to obtain preliminary data on clinical efficacy. Methods and results This multi-centre, open-label phase II, two-staged study (8-patient feasibility phase plus 24-patient safety and tolerability phase) enrolled 32 New York Heart Association (NYHA) class II-IV patients [age 56 +/- 11 years, LV ejection fraction (LVEF) 23 +/- 8%]. Right cervical VNS with CardioFit (BioControl Medical) implantable system started 2-4 weeks after implant, slowly raising intensity; patients were followed 3 and 6 months thereafter with optional 1-year follow-up. Overall, 26 serious adverse events (SAEs) occurred in 13 of 32 patients (40.6%), including three deaths and two clearly device-related AEs (post-operative pulmonary oedema, need of surgical revision). Expected non-serious device-related AEs (cough, dysphonia, and stimulation-related pain) occurred early but were reduced and disappeared after stimulation intensity adjustment. There were significant improvements (P <0.001) in NYHA class quality of life, 6-minute walk test (from 411 +/- 76 to 471 +/- 111 m), LVEF (from 22 +/- 7 to 29 +/- 8%), and LV systolic volumes (P = 0.02). These improvements were maintained at 1 year. Conclusions This open-label study shows that chronic VNS in CHF patients with severe systolic dysfunction may be safe and tolerable and may improve quality of life and LV function. A controlled clinical trial appears warranted.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)847-855
JournalEuropean Heart Journal
Volume32
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2011

Keywords

  • Heart failure
  • Autonomic nervous system
  • Non-pharmacologic therapy

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