Skip to content
left end
left end
right end

02 May 2012

First UK patient to take part in new heart failure trial

Clinicians and scientists at the Bristol Heart Institute (BHI) have successfully implanted the first two patients in the UK with a vagal nerve stimulator, as part of a clinical trial designed to discover another treatment option for heart failure patients. 

NECTAR-HF (Neural Cardiac Therapy for Heart Failure) is an international clinical study which will examine whether vagal nerve stimulation can restore autonomic balance and therefore improve heart function and inhibit progression of heart failure. 

The vagus nerve is part of the autonomic nervous system, which controls functions of the body that are not under voluntary control, such as heart rate. It passes through the neck as it travels between the chest and abdomen and the lower part of the brain. 

Dr Angus Nightingale, consultant cardiologist at the BHI who leads the trial, said: 

"Stimulating the vagus nerve is commonly used to treat epilepsy and depression, but may have other significant benefits.  

"The device goes under the skin in the chest and is then attached to the vagus nerve in the neck under general anaesthetic. The device is like a pacemaker and when switched on it stimulates the nerve.  

"The idea behind this is that chronic autonomic imbalance is believed to be a risk factor of the progression of heart failure and adverse cardiovascular events. The stimulation should alter the balance of the system and improve cardiac function." 

The study, sponsored by Boston Scientific Corporation, will evaluate 96 patients with vagal nerve stimulator implants at 25 sites across Europe. For the first six months two in three participants will have the vagal nerve stimulator turned on. After six months everyone on the trial will have their implant turned on. The Trust is hoping to recruit five to ten patients over the next year. 

Bristol was the first UK site to implant this type of device for heart failure and the third site worldwide. The research team brings together experts from the Bristol Heart Institute Cardiology Department and basic scientists from the University of Bristol to offer cutting edge technologies to patients in the South West with heart failure. 

Over a million adults in the UK suffer from heart failure and new treatments are needed to improve patients' symptoms and improve life expectancy.