Death Calculator: Predicting Heart Failure

Death Calculator: Predicting Heart Failure

CREATED May 7, 2014

LOS ANGELES, Calif. (Ivanhoe Newswire) – Elijah Ali and his son Rafee share a love for healthy eating and sports.

“[We] love to walk, love to run, play ball, [and] sports,” Ali told Ivanhoe.

“I get all my game from my dad,” Rafee told Ivanhoe. “He was the first one to put the ball in my hand when I was a little boy.”

However, despite his active and healthy lifestyle, Ali developed heart failure at age 43 after a virus attacked his body.

“I was really shocked, and really dismayed,” Ali explained.

Today Ali and his doctor are using a new app that calculates his risk of dying in the next five years.

UCLA researchers developed the app based on four variables: BNP level (which measures fluid retention), medication information, the New York Heart Association Classification (which measures shortness of breath caused by physical activity), and peak oxygen consumption (which measures the use of oxygen by the heart).

“We can develop a score that helps us predict a patient that will do well or is not going to do well,” Martin Cadeiras, MD, Transplant Cardiologist, UCLA, told Ivanhoe.

The app shows the probability of survival. Ali has over a 90 percent chance of surviving one year and nearly a 70 percent chance of surviving five years. This data helps doctors tailor treatments and advice.

“Basically, it just lets you know where you are and where you don’t want to be,” Ali explained.


BACKGROUND: Heart failure, despite its name, is not when the heart stops beating all together. Rather it means your heart has stopped pumping enough blood to adequately supply your body. The heart’s inability to provide the body with sufficient blood causes it to expand and grow larger in order to hold more blood. Eventually this will wear out the heart, making it even less efficient. Heart failure also causes blood to congest in other parts of the body, like the lungs and vessels. It can also cause other tissue to hold onto fluid. Often this will be in the legs, abdomen, or liver. This “backing up” is why heart failure is often called congestive heart failure.

CAUSES: Many conditions can lead to heart failure, including the following:

  • Coronary Artery Disease: When plaque builds up in the arteries, less blood can reach the heart, causing it to work harder.
  • Heart attack: heart attacks can essentially kill parts of the heart muscle which were starved of oxygen, making the heart work more to compensate for the lost muscle.
  • Severe lung disease: if the lung’s ability to provide enough oxygen to the body is impaired, the heart has to compensate by pumping more blood.

NEW TECHNOLOGY: Although they have been around for years, doctors at the University of Pennsylvania are now using left ventricular assist devices (LVAD) in a different way, as a bridge-to-recovery following heart failure or other cardiovascular conditions. As the heart enlarges in order to compensate for injury, the LVAD assists with its blood pumping duties, taking some of the stress off of the heart. The heart slowly regains its strength, and the LVAD system is slowly dialed back as the heart returns to normal functioning, which usually takes between six and nine months. Already in use in Europe, the LVAD bridge-to-recovery has shown 90 percent of patients had no recurrence of their heart failure after two years.