Updated on 2 November 2012
Could you kindly tell us how the C-Pulse Heart Assist system was developed?
The C-pulse Heart Assist system was invented and developed by Dr Will Peters, a cardiac surgeon and founder of Sunshine Heart. His novel idea and device was developed based on the existing and well validated intra-aortic counter pulsation technology. Intra-aortic counter pulsation, is a well validated technology originally developed in the 1960's and used for acute periods of time (less than six hours) to treat various cardiac afflictions, but most commonly for weaning patients after cardiac bypass surgery and following myocardial infarction (heart attacks).
It consists of an inflatable balloon placed inside the aorta that inflates and deflates in synchrony with the heart beat to assist blood flow and reduce the workload of the heart. While this device is highly beneficial, as it is placed inside the aorta using a catheter, it can only be used acutely, and is not a feasible approach for long term relief or therapy.
Dr Peters' idea was to use the technology of counter pulsation to provide the same work load and blood flow benefits to the heart but in a way that allows the therapy to be applied outside the blood stream and thus could be implanted permanently for longer term benefits for those patients who needed chronic therapy, such as heart failure patients.
It was this idea that led to the birth of the C-pulse Heart Assist device, which consists of an inflatable balloon within a flexible cuff wrapped around the aorta just above the aortic valve. This inflatable balloon applies a ‘thumbprint' pressure to the aorta when it inflates. Like traditional counter pulsation technology the timing of inflation and deflation is synchronized with the heart beat such that inflation occurs when the valve is closed, increasing coronary perfusion to the heart and deflates when the aortic valve opens, generating a vacuum like effect assisting the blood flow from the heart to the rest of the body.
The balloon cuff can be implanted minimally invasively, using an incision that is the same size used for pacemarker implantation. This cuff is then connected via sensing leads to the left ventricle to sense the heart beat/valve opening and also to a percutaneous lead that exits the patient at the abdomen and connects to an external battery and pump that sits on a patients waist.