Market growing for mechanical hearts

With the number of patients living with heart failure in the United States at about 5.1 million and growing, the market for mechanical heart implants is expected to grow.

With just 2,500 hearts donated for transplant each year, the devices offer an alternative to medical management for those ineligible for a transplant and extended life for those on a waiting list.

"It's an area that's still relatively young in its development, but it's making big strides," Chris Pasquale, an analyst at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in New York, told Bloomberg. "It's still a small market today, but it's approaching critical mass where some of the big companies may begin to be interested."

It's a $475 million market in the United States, and worldwide sales could hit $700 million this year, Pasquale said.

About 5,500 machines known as left ventricular assist devices were implanted worldwide last year, according to Doug Godshall, chief executive officer of Framingham, Mass.-based vendor Heartware.

The devices are implanted only in the sickest of the sick--those expected to live only days or months--and it's vital to select patients who can handle the challenges associated with the devices.

HeartWare won FDA approval in November for a miniature pump that a study found kept 96 percent of patients alive after six months.

But it's an expensive option. A Duke University study put the cost of the devices at more than $360,000 over five years, compared with $63,000 for medically managed patients.

With a $2 million research grant, healthcare giants Sutter Health and Geisinger Health System are teaming up with IBM to study heart failure prediction based on EHR data.

With penalties for hospital readmissions, organizations are looking for ways to better manage chronic heart failure in other care settings. Researchers from Intermountain Healthcare have developed a computerized discharge system to provide patients with appropriate care and to prevent their rebound.

To learn more:
- find the Bloomberg article

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