Penn State Hershey Medical Center plays key role in landmark heart-failure trial

May 20, 2004

Hershey, Pa. -- Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center was among the first in the nation to evaluate the effectiveness of cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) devices to reduce the risk of mortality and hospitalization in advanced heart failure patients. The evaluation was conducted as part of the landmark COMPANION Trial (Comparison of Medical Therapy, Pacing and Defibrillation in Chronic Heart Failure) and conducted at top medical facilities around the nation. The results of the trial were published today (May 20) in the New England Journal of Medicine, and indicate CRT devices used in combination with optimized pharmacologic therapy (OPT) show a significant impact on a patient's quality and length of life.

As one of the study's clinical trial sites, Penn State Hershey Medical Center is among the first to bring this lifesaving technology to central Pennsylvania. John P. Boehmer, associate professor of medicine, Penn State Cardiovascular Center, Penn State Hershey Medical Center and Penn State College of Medicine, led the study at the medical center, treating patients with Class III or IV heart failure, the most advanced stages of the disease.

The COMPANION Trial included more than 1,600 heart-failure patients from across the country. While previous clinical studies demonstrated CRT devices improve performance and quality of life only, the COMPANION Trial yielded the following impressive results, each as compared to OPT alone: A 19 percent reduction in combined all-cause mortality or all-cause hospitalization for heart failure patients implanted with Guidant's cardiac resynchronization therapy pacemakers (CRT-P); a 20 percent reduction in combined all-cause mortality or all-cause hospitalization for heart failure patients implanted with Guidant's cardiac resynchronization therapy defibrillators (CRT-D); and a 36 percent reduction in all-cause mortality for heart failure patients who received Guidant's CRT-D device.

Cardiac resynchronization therapy devices use electrical stimulation to synchronize the contractions of the right and left ventricles of the heart. CRT-D devices function like regular CRT devices, but also include a defibrillation function, which sends an electrical shock to the heart to stop dangerously rapid rhythms that can result in sudden cardiac death.

Heart failure is a debilitating condition that affects not only a patient's quality of life, but also life expectancy. It is a condition in which the heart weakens and gradually loses the ability to pump blood effectively. More than five million Americans currently suffer from heart failure. Nearly one million new cases of heart failure are diagnosed annually worldwide, making it the most rapidly growing cardiovascular disorder.

Boehmer joined Penn State College of Medicine faculty in 1992. He graduated from Bucknell University in 1982 and earned his medical doctorate from Penn State College Of Medicine in 1986. He is board certified in internal medicine and the subspecialty of cardiovascular diseases.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated March 20, 2009