Balloon ‘last chance treatment’ for heart failure

Scientists have used a pioneering balloon technique as a "last chance" treatment to help a patient with severe heart failure. Richard Reach, 59, had the balloon device implanted to close off a leaky heart valve. Doctors say the procedure allowed him to improve enough to have more permanent surgery.
With further trials, the device could help thousands more patients, they say. Mr Reach, a builder from Kent, suffered severe heart failure after a heart attack, leaving him extremely unwell and short of breath. The damage to his heart meant one of his heart valves no longer worked properly, creating a backflow of blood and putting extra strain on his heart.
But when conventional treatment was deemed too high a risk, doctors decided to ask UK regulators for permission to try the new Mitra-Spacer device on compassionate grounds. Mr Reach had the device implanted in June 2015 and was allowed home just a few days later.
How it works:
The balloon – the size of a small chilli pepper – is inserted using a keyhole technique – without the need for major surgery
It is put in place at the damaged valve and inflated to stop the backflow of blood
The balloon is then connected to a port just below the patient’s skin – so it can be inflated or deflated over time, depending on the patient’s condition
Five months later, Mr Reach’s heart had recovered enough for surgeons to carry out a conventional operation to repair the valve. Mr Reach said: "Just as it seemed the medical team had run out of options Prof Wendler suggested the new treatment.
"Now I’m walking around and feeling better each day. What the team has done for me is nothing short of a miracle.