July 23, 2003
Alcohol, as it turns out, may be an effective and safe alternative to
dangerous and complicated surgical procedures for patients suffering from
Alcohol, it turns out, may be an effective and safe alternative to dangerous
and complicated surgical procedures for patients suffering from Hypertrophic
Cardiomyopathy. The Bikur Holim Hospital in Jerusalem is pioneering the
application of the method in Israel.
Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy is an excessive thickening of the heart muscle,
which blocks the flow of blood out of the heart and to the rest of the body. It
is thought to be a major cause of sudden heart failure deaths among athletes
and young people. The alcohol treatment, developed in England several years
ago, has been put into practice at the Bikur Holim hospital in Jerusalem, and
involves the injection of alcohol (97%) directly into the blood vessels supplyin
g the engorged area of the muscle. This injection cuts off supply of blood to
the specific area affected, thus lessening the blockage of the exit valve of
the heart’s left ventricle. The alcohol injection has thus far led to improved
cardiac performance in 90% of the heart patients so treated, eliminating the
need for dangerous surgical alternatives.
Professor Andrei Kern, the chief of cardiology at Bikur Holim and the
secretary of the European Federation for the Study of Cardiomyopathy, says that the
treatment is not suitable for all those who suffer from Hypertrophic
Cardiomyopathy. Those who do not qualify, he says, are treated with drugs and/or through
implantation of a defibrillator.