Keeping you up to date on recent headlines in cardiovascular healthcare:

UAB students design Wii CPR program ... The American Heart Association (AHA; Dallas) said it has pledged $50,000 to fund the work of University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) biomedical engineering undergraduate students who are working to develop a computer program that teaches CPR using hand-held remote controls from the Nintendo Wii video game console. Students James McKee, Jack Wimbish, Haisam Islam and Zach Clark began work on the project as seniors at UAB. Along with faculty advisers Greg Walcott, MD, associate professor of medicine, and Jack Rogers, PhD, associate professor of biomedical engineering, the team has been developing the Wii CPR technology for the last seven months. Based on an idea initiated by Walcott, the technology is a computer program that can be downloaded on home computers and synched with the wireless technology of the Wii remote to teach users proper CPR technique. The UAB team worked on the Wii CPR project for its Design in BME biomedical engineering course, which required the students to design and construct a prototype of the technology for real-world use in order to pass the course. After a class presentation in May, which showed the students' progress and the real potential for the technology, the AHA contacted UAB to offer the education grant, Rogers said. When completed, the UAB Wii CPR program will become available on the AHA Web site as an open source code download, which would make it free and available to anyone with Internet access. The UAB team says it could complete its program development by early fall of 2009.

Michigan Tech students design CPR-friendly mattress ... Students from Michigan Technological University (Michigan Tech; Houghton, Michigan) say they have designed and developed a breakthrough in medical care that could save lives in a heartbeat. The students say they have devised a mattress that facilitates faster and more effective CPR, and they're working to put it on the open market. The invention addresses a longstanding and critical problem: A standard hospital mattress, with six or more inches of foam, is pliable and cushiony. Pushing down to administer CPR is like pushing on a big sponge, the force goes into the mattress and not the body lying on it. The Michigan Tech students came up with a simple solution: Push a button, suck the air out of the foam, and make it firm. Some tubing, a little motor, and a vacuum pump work the magic. It takes just ten seconds to work, according to the designers. With a standard mattress, only 43% of the CPR load winds up reaching the heart; a board underneath the mattress raises that rate to 52%; and with the Michigan Tech students' design, it leaps to 81%. Another team of Michigan Tech students has founded a company and is working to get this mattress into hospitals, especially in emergency rooms. The students expect to have a patent by September 2009. They say they are talking with a number of companies that have experience bringing medical products to market.

New study says heart health not affected by dialysis ... Dialysis treatments do not affect the heart health of kidney disease patients who have had a heart attack, according to a study appearing in an upcoming issue of Clinical Journal of the American Society Nephrology (CJASN). Since cardiovascular disease is the most common cause of death in kidney disease patients, the findings are good news for individuals who need the treatments. Because dialysis may be harmful to the heart, physicians often delay dialysis in patients who have had a heart attack. To investigate the issue, George Coritsidis, MD (Elmhurst/Queens Hospital Center/Mount Sinai School of Medicine), and his colleagues reviewed the medical charts of 131 end-stage renal disease patients who had a heart attack while they were on dialysis. They looked to see if the timing of dialysis had any effect on patients' heart health following their heart attack. About half of the patients received dialysis within the first 24 hours of their heart attack. A quarter received dialysis 24 hours to 48 hours after their heart attack, and a quarter received dialysis more than 48 hours after. The researchers found no link between the timing of dialysis treatments and cardiac symptoms such as chest pains or emergency room admissions. A similar number of patients in each of the three groups experienced cardiac symptoms. However, the investigators identified several predictors that might indicate which dialysis patients have a particularly high risk of having a heart attack. These include the seriousness of the patient's condition, prior heart disease, high pre-dialysis potassium blood levels, and a large drop in potassium blood levels after dialysis.

Study connects gum disease to heart disease ... Recent clinical studies have suggested a strong connection between gum disease and cardiovascular disease. As many as 75% of adults in the U.S. have been affected by periodontal disease, and an estimated 80.7 million adults (1 out of every 3) have been a victim of cardiovascular disease in 2006, according to the American Heart Association (AHA; Dallas). From the 80.7 million adults in the U.S., 38.2 million are less than 60 years of age, which is almost 50%, the AHA noted. According to Marvin Slepian, MD, and Neil Gottehrer, DDS, who led a discussion titled "Oral Body Inflammation Connection" during the 57th annual meeting of the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD; Chicago) in Baltimore last week, these findings strengthen their belief that oral infections contribute to cardiovascular disease morbidity and connection of chronic infections and cardiovascular disease.

New IBC programs aim to prevent heart disease, diabetes ... Independence Blue Cross (IBC; Philadelphia) launched two new programs recently to help members avoid, or better manage, heart disease and diabetes. The first program targets members who are at risk of developing cardiometabolic syndrome, a condition which may increase a person's chance of developing heart disease and diabetes. The second program targets members who are inconsistent with their medications for certain chronic conditions. These programs expand IBC's Connections Health Management Program, delivered in collaboration with Health Dialog (Boston). The Cardiometabolic Risk Management Program teaches members about their varying symptoms of heart disease and diabetes and the behavior and lifestyle changes that may help prevent these diseases and help them lead healthier lives. Cardiometabolic risk factors that increase a person's overall chance of developing heart disease and diabetes include: tobacco use, high body mass index, obesity, hypertension, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes. IBC members who are identified with these symptoms are eligible for the program. Based on the severity of one's condition, a member who smokes or is overweight may also be invited to join an intensive weight management or smoking cessation program to help better manage the condition. IBC's second new program, the Medication Persistence program, targets members who are not consistently taking certain prescribed medications for coronary heart disease, heart failure, diabetes, and hypertension. Health coaches will work with these members to discover any barriers they may be facing that keep them from taking the proper medication at the proper dosage on a regular basis, IBC said.

— Compiled by Amanda Pedersen, MDD