During the past three decades great advances have been made in diagnostics and treatment of cardiovascular diseases. Developed diagnostic techniques allow us to observe blood flow in coronary arteries, make pressure measurements in all of the heart's chambers and major vessels, reveal the direction of flow and visualize damage to the valves without even opening the heart. Numerous drugs are now available to treat arrhythmias, coronary artery narrowing, lower blood pressure, and to help failing heart muscle.
Recent surgical advances are also remarkable. Operations on the live heart become possible after the invention and perfection of the heart-lung machine in the late 1960s. Bypass surgeries, replacement of damaged valves, corrective surgery to repair congenital pathologies, and transplantation of donor hearts are now routine procedures in many hospitals worldwide.
important development was a rise in the awareness of the public of risk factors
for cardiovascular disease. These factors include smoking, obesity, diabetes,
stress, high blood pressure, and elevated blood cholesterol. On the other side,
exercise and a healthy diet were shown to reduce the incidence of heart disease.
The preventive efforts substantially decreased mortality from coronary heart
diseases in the industrialized world and the in the United States especially.
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Nevertheless, cardiovascular diseases remain the major cause of mortality in the industrialized world. More research and medical efforts are required to save human lives lost every year as a result of heart disease and its complications. These research efforts are supported by the federal government ( National Institute of Health ), private and state organizations (such as American Heart Association ), pharmaceutical companies and by the citizens themselves. Below are only some of the recent developments in diagnostics and treatments of heart-related illnesses.
New diagnostic procedures such as ultrafast CT and MRA (three-dimensional coronary magnetic resonance angiography) allow us to detect narrowing blood vessels non-invasively (without surgery). The ultrafast CT reveal calcium deposits in fatty plaques which block coronary arteries. MRA uses a powerful magnet and radio waves to provide detailed images of the coronary arteries and also can be used to evaluate cardiac anatomy and other heart functions.
Another amazing development is growing replacement parts for damaged hearts using methods of tissue engineering. The first successful experiments have already been reported. In these studies, cells derived from the blood vessel walls of the recipient sheep were cultured in special conditions and produced an in-vitro valve. The in-vitro grown valves were then implanted back into sheep and functioned normally.
Development of a new class of drugs that promote growth of new blood vessels - is an important advance in treatment of ischemic heart disease. When blockage of coronary arteries occurs, the muscle area which obtain blood supply from that vessel is destined to die. Drugs that promote angiogenesis (growth of new vessels) allow us to restore circulation by spreading tiny new vessels from the neighboring non-blocked arteries into the blood-deprived part of the heart muscle.
Robotic surgery is another breakthrough in the treatment of heart patients. During standard heart surgery the whole chest needs to be opened, heart stopped and other drastic measures taken. Robotic surgery allows us to perform many of the surgical procedures without actually opening the patient chest. Instead, robotic arms are inserted through a tiny holes and manipulated using the computer. The surgeon simulates the motions required to accomplish certain surgical tasks and computer then duplicates surgeon movements inside the patient's body. Importantly, the computer removes the natural trembling of the surgeon's hands, making the actual surgical procedures even better.