KINGSPORT – A cutting-edge surgical procedure at Holston Valley Medical Center offers a new treatment option for patients with congestive heart failure.

James Merrill, MD, recently became the first physician in the region to successfully implant a biventricular pacemaker. The procedure synchronizes the lower left and right chambers of the heart and helps eliminate the buildup of fluid in the lungs and body that characterizes congestive heart failure.

“This is a major advancement for the treatment of congestive heart failure,” Dr. Merrill said. “The mainstay for treating congestive heart failure has been medications. This new procedure provides an additional treatment option for our patients who have reached the point where medications just aren’t doing the job.”

A biventricular pacemaker differs from a standard pacemaker in that it paces both the left and right ventricles of the heart. Typically, Dr. Merrill said, a pacemaker is implanted with one wire in the heart’s right ventricle to keep the heart from beating too slowly. With a biventricular pacemaker, he said, a surgeon is able to implant a wire in the right ventricle and float a second wire through the outside wall of the heart to the left ventricle.

Once the two wires are in place, the surgeon can synchronize – or re-tune – the ventricles to improve heart function.

“You see benefits immediately,” Dr. Merrill said. “And the patients generally continue to improve over the course of several weeks and months.”

While effective in many cases, biventricular pacemakers are not for everyone. An examination by a cardiologist is necessary to determine if the procedure will be beneficial to a particular patient, Dr. Merrill said.

In patients with severe congestive heart failure, the procedure can be extremely effective, he said.

“We’ve had excellent results,” Dr. Merrill said. “We’re excited about the possibilities.”


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Jim Wozniak
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