Project to develop new technology to detect heart failure receives Heart Research UK grant

A project at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham aiming to develop a better way to diagnose heart failure and assess patients who may benefit from heart pumps has received a grant of almost £150,000 from national charity Heart Research UK.

The Novel and Emerging Technologies (NET) grant has been awarded to Dr Sern Lim (pictured) and his team at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham to investigate if the analysis of waves created when the heart beats can diagnose heart failure.

Heart failure occurs when the heart is not able to pump enough blood around the body. Around 920,000 people in the UK have been diagnosed with heart failure, and one-fifth of patients die within one year of diagnosis.

While the only effective solution is a transplant, mechanical pumps known as left ventricular assist devices (LVADs) can support a failing heart. LVADs significantly improve survival and quality of life in patients with advanced heart failure, and are increasingly used as a temporary bridge to transplantation or as permanent therapy.

Techniques that are currently used to assess the right side of the heart are inadequate, meaning it is difficult for doctors to select patients who would do well with an LVAD, or diagnose and treat right heart failure before it is too late.

When the heart beats, it generates a wave that propels blood into the bloods vessels. Wave intensity analysis (WIA) is a technique that measures the pressure and flow characteristics of these waves.

By analysing these waves, it can be determined how well the heart is pumping and how the heart interacts with the blood vessels. WIA may also have wider uses for monitoring heart function and treatment in very sick patients.  

Dr Lim’s project will evaluate the efficiency of WIA, before assessing the effect of changing LVAD pump speed on the right side of the heart. High pump speeds can worsen right heart function, and pump speeds that are too low may not be sufficient to support the left side of the heart. Prof Lim’s team will see whether WIA can be used to identify the best LVAD pump speed for each patient.

Dr Lim said: “This is an exciting project that we hope will help us assess the function of the right side of the heart and which has the potential to improve outcomes for patients with LVADs.
“Using WIA to assess patient’s hearts may help us to decide who will benefit from an LVAD, and also allow us to adjust the pump speed to suit each patient to ensure that they are getting the best results.

“Heart Research UK have a long history of backing new and potentially ground-breaking research, so we are very grateful to them for supporting this project.”

Kate Bratt-Farrar, Chief Executive at Heart Research UK, added: “We are delighted to be supporting Prof Lim’s research, which has the potential to have a big impact on the lives of those living with heart failure.

“Our NET grants are all about backing new and innovative developments in medical technology that can quickly and efficiently translate into real patient benefits.

“The dedication we see from UK researchers is both encouraging and impressive and we at Heart Research UK are proud to be part of it.”

The £144,148 grant was awarded to Ulster University as part of Heart Research UK’s annual awards for research into the prevention, treatment and cure of heart disease.

In the last year, Heart Research UK has awarded more than £1.3 million in grants for medical research projects across the UK. To date, the charity has invested more than £25 m in medical research via its grants programme.