New therapy for heart patients may cut costs

PHOTO: New therapy for heart patients may cut costs

SINGAPORE - A new form of therapy, aimed at reducing excess fluids in patients suffering from heart failure, was introduced by the National Heart Centre Singapore (NHCS) yesterday.

Possibly a first in Asia, the treatment could help patients save on medical costs.

A study done in the United States showed that the treatment cut hospital re-admissions by 50 per cent, hospital stays by 63 per cent and emergency- room visits by 52 per cent.

The treatment, known as aquapheresis, uses an ultrafiltration technique to remove unwanted salt and water content in a patient's body.

During therapy, blood from the veins is drawn using a catheter and passed through a portable filtration device.

The salt and water molecules are filtered out and the treated blood is re-circulated into the body.

The procedure will be used only on patients who do not respond well to diuretic drugs which are taken to remove excess fluids.

About 20 to 30 per cent of heart patients become resistant to the drugs due to excessive fluids in the body.

Dr David Sim, a consultant with NHCS, explained: "You must have a trial with medical therapy first, (because) the patient might respond well (to diuretics)."

Up to 50 patients are expected to benefit from the therapy annually.

There are about 5,000 heart-failure patients yearly, of which the NHCS sees about 1,000.

After government subsidies, the treatment will cost between $400 and $700, instead of $2,000.

The treatment process can last between eight and 72 hours. While it is currently offered only to patients warded at NHCS, Dr Sim said NHCS does not rule out the possibility of rolling it out to other hospitals in the future.

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