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First UK patient receives revolutionary 'C-Pulse Device' at Harefield Hospital

19 August 2014

A heart failure patient at Harefield Hospital has become the first person in the UK to be implanted with the Sunshine Heart C-Pulse® Heart Assist System.

Fifty-four year old Ross Swift, a father of two from Devon, had the pioneering device implanted in time to be able to walk his daughter down the aisle on her wedding day.

Mr Swift is the first UK patient to join a European post-market clinical study¹ looking at the long-term impact of the C-Pulse system on patients with moderate to severe heart failure. Up to fifty patients in the UK, Austria and Germany will be implanted with the heart assist device in the study.

The C-Pulse system is intended to treat patients with less severe, though serious, heart failure symptoms, who may not be suitable for a mechanical heart pump, such as a left ventricular assist device (LVAD). The system, which was developed by Sunshine Heart Inc., is designed to help improve quality of life and support heart function in this particular group of patients, some of whom, like Mr Swift, may also be suitable for a transplant.  

During implantation, an inflatable cuff is surgically placed around the main artery arising from the heart (the aorta) and a heartbeat sensor wire is placed on the heart. The cuff comprises a balloon connected to a tube, which in turn, connects to an external battery-powered source that is carried by the patient in a bag. During the resting phase of the heartbeat the cuff inflates, gently compressing the aorta and improving blood flow to the heart muscle. Immediately prior to ejection of blood by the heart, the cuff deflates, reducing the workload of the heart.

A benefit of the C-Pulse system is that it does not come into contact with the blood stream, avoiding the need to take blood thinning medication that can have significant side effects for some patients. The system may also offer a certain level of freedom to patients on a day-to-day basis, as it can be switched off for short periods of time – usually up to 15 minutes – allowing the patient to unplug the battery supply for certain activities, like showering.

Mr André Simon, director of transplantation at Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust and the consultant surgeon who carried out the first procedure in the UK, said:

“At Harefield Hospital we see lots of patients with heart failure who are limited in their everyday activities, such as walking to the shops or taking part in family activities, but many of these patients are not sick enough to need a heart transplant.

“The C-Pulse system is a treatment option that has not previously been available for this particular group of patients. The aim of implanting the system is to help slow the deterioration of a failing heart, which can relieve heart failure symptoms and improve their quality of life. If this trial shows that the treatment is successful, the system could provide hope to the thousands of heart failure patients in the UK.”

Ross Swift, 54, from Ivybridge in Devon, suffered a near fatal cardiac arrest in 2002 whilst on holiday abroad with his wife Paula and two children, Matthew and Hayley
He had a number of stents fitted and has been treated for several years with medication to manage his heart failure, but has been unable to work or have an active life. His condition steadily worsened and - from his former life as an active family man, lorry driver and retained firefighter - he was left housebound.

In 2011 at his local hospital, he was fitted with an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD), a small device that can help treat people with dangerously abnormal heart rhythms. More recently, however, his consultant told him his only option was a heart transplant. Ross was referred to Harefield Hospital and following his first appointment in March 2014, was immediately put on the transplant list.

Mr André Simon, director of transplantation at Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust, spoke with Ross and his family about the C-Pulse Heart Assist System, which could potentially improve Ross’s quality of life as he waits for a suitable donor organ to become available. Ross, whose daughter was due to get married in the summer, agreed to be implanted, aware he would be the first UK recipient of the system. He said: “I wanted to walk my daughter down the aisle. She’s been a rock for our family through all of this and I wanted to be there for her.”

Ross had his operation on 16 June 2014. He said: “Immediately I could tell there was a difference. When I breathed, it felt clearer. I had more colour in my face and my family said my attitude changed. I feel more positive. I find day-to-day activities, which used to wear me out, much easier to get on with and recover from afterwards.

“Of course, having to carry the box around is not easy and I haven’t forgotten that I am still waiting for a transplant. But after I had the operation, Mr Simon came in to see me and said ‘you’re part of the family now’. That meant a lot. The team at Harefield is constantly looking at how to make the situation better for me.”

Ross proudly walked his daughter Hayley down the aisle at her wedding on Saturday 9 August 2014 and the following day celebrated his granddaughter’s first birthday.

He said: “The wedding was amazing. Everybody was crying knowing what we had been through. Walking my daughter down the aisle was something a few months ago we didn’t believe was possible.”


For further information, please contact:

Mark Fenwick

Head of media relations
Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust
Tel: 020 7351 8672  
Mobile: 07866 536 345
Email: m.fenwick@rbht.nhs.uk
Follow us on Twitter: @RBandH

¹ The patient has been joined to the C-Pulse® System European Multicenter Study (OPTIONS HF). The OPTIONS HF clinical study is a post-market, multi-centre, prospective, surveillance study in up to fifteen European centers. The study is designed to observe long-term clinical outcomes of heart failure patients treated with the C-Pulse System. Details can be found on the clinical trials website.

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Find out more about heart failure research studies at Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust