Italian researchers have confirmed that making external defibrillators available to trained non-medical people improves survival chances in cases of sudden cardiac arrest. Alessandro Capucci and his team at the Ospedale Civile di Piacenza (Italy) installed 39 semi-automatic external defibrillators around the city of Piacenza – 15 at fixed sites, 12 in police cars and 12 in ambulances – and trained more than 1,000 volunteers to use defibrillation techniques.

Over the first 12-month period, the volunteers used a defibrillator 63 times, saving the lives of seven people. Volunteers were able to intervene before medical staff in 53% of cases, with a mean time for intervention of 5 minutes, 30 seconds for volunteers and 6 minutes, 50 seconds for medical personnel. Resulting from earlier intervention, survival rates were 44% compared to only 17% for medical staff. Capucci concluded that these first results, although encouraging, are capable of significant improvement, especially in shortening the response time closer to the optimum three-minute call-to-shock target.

Spain launches coronary heart disease project

The Spanish health ministry is reviewing nationally present cardiology and heart surgery equipment facility needs as part of a national plan to tackle coronary heart disease (CHD). The project will assess requirements at a regional level, set up national standards in prevention, early diagnosis and treatment, and coordinate delivery of services. Although the final approved CHD plan will become part of the national health system, allowance will be made for specific regional needs in view of the continuing devolution of health care service delivery to the regions.

The plan is to be modeled on the UK National Health Service's CHD program because of similarities in the two health care systems, and several UK experts have been loaned to the project as advisors.

LionHeart LVAS implants in Europe

The first implant surgery of the LionHeart left ventricular assist system (LVAS) was in October 1999 at the Heart and Diabetes Center (Bad Oyenhausen, Germany). The patient today is living at home with his LVAS, continuing to function as expected.

Ten European patients have so far received the LionHeart LVAS from Arrow International (Reading, Pennsylvania) at four centers – in Paris; Vienna, Austria; Basel, Switzerland and Bad Oyenhausen. The LionHeart device is designed to provide cardiac assist for heart failure patients who are not candidates for heart transplants. The device, which is completely implanted, does not replace the heart, but assists in the pumping function. There are no direct power supply lines through the skin, thus avoiding a potential infection risk. The system is driven using a wearable battery pack which powers noninvasively through the skin to charge internal batteries.

CE-mark approval for European marketing of the LionHeart device is expected this fall, according to Arrow, with U.S. approval from the FDA in late 2003 at the earliest.

Axis-Shield test to go on Abbott analyzer

Axis-Shield (Oslo, Norway) has signed an agreement with Abbott Laboratories (Abbott Park, Illinois) to develop a version of its B-type Natriuretic Peptide (BNP) test for Abbott's AXSYM immunoassay testing system. The BNP test measurements can aid in the diagnosis and monitoring of heart failure patients and in the risk assessment of post myocardial infarction. Axis-Shield's fiscal year results show sales revenues up 140% to $51 million, largely as a result of the acquisition of Medinor (Oslo, Norway) in late 1999 and Nycomed Diagnostics (also Oslo), acquired in early 2000. "We have a business with a critical mass and revenue generation capability to enable us to devote significant resources to the development of new elite diagnostic markers and systems," said Axis-Shield chairman Nigel Keen.

Ela Medical acquired by Snia group

Sanofi-Synthelabo (Paris, France) has sold its Ela Medical (Le Plessis Robinson, France) pacemaker and defibrillator subsidiary to the Snia Group (Milan, Italy) for $125.7 million. Ela Medical becomes part of Snia's Sorin Biomedica (Saluggia, Italy) medical device division, which also makes pacemakers, as well as heart valves, oxygenators and hemodialysis equipment. Ela reported sales of $114 million in 2000.

Brain activity monitor for cardio surgery

Texcel Technology (Crayford, England) has developed a portable brain scanner that offers the possibility to monitor brain activity during cardiovascular surgery, to assess neonates following birth trauma and to measure the effectiveness of medication in suppressing epileptiform seizures in ICU patients.

The unit is connected to the patient like an EEG recorder and monitors brain activity throughout the duration of the procedure. The monitor can store information on differing types of brain activity and plot these on two- or three- dimensional maps which can be compared to the patient's brain activity in real time to help identify abnormalities and to speed up diagnosis.

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