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Study takes ‘cool’ approach to reducing heart attack damage

By Kathy Whitney
August 2013

Vanderbilt Heart and Vascular Institute is participating in a clinical study to assess the safety and feasibility of rapidly lowering the body’s temperature to reduce the amount of damage caused by a heart attack.

The randomized, controlled study, called VELOCITY, will enroll 60 patients who are suffering from a specific type of heart attack known as an ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI). Vanderbilt Heart is one of several U.S. and Canadian medical centers participating in this investigational trial, which is sponsored by Velomedix Inc.

Participants in the study are randomized to one of two arms. Patients in the control arm receive percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) without therapeutic hypothermia, which is the current standard treatment for STEMI. Patients in the treatment arm are rapidly cooled first to temperatures of less than 35°C using the Velomedix system just prior to receiving the same PCI treatment.

Three previous randomized controlled trials have shown that patients who are cooled to therapeutic temperatures before the standard treatment for STEMIs have experienced a significant reduction in the extent of the heart attack.

To lower the body temperature, the physician inserts a catheter into the abdomen and then uses the Velomedix system to circulate a large volume of cold fluid in the peritoneal cavity.

Once the body temperature is successfully lowered, the physician opens the artery and puts in a stent.

“By quickly cooling the body before we open the blocked artery, we hope to prevent what is known as reperfusion injury,” said John McPherson, M.D. 

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