URMC Research Dominates Heart Rhythm Society Meeting

Jun. 5, 2013

EKGWith 20-plus abstracts and several prominent lectures and presentations, URMC’s Heart Research Follow-up Program team made their mark at the Heart Rhythm Society’s Annual Scientific Sessions in Denver in May. The diverse team included medical students and residents, research fellows and faculty, all led by Wojciech Zareba, M.D., Ph.D., and Arthur J. Moss, M.D., both international experts on electrical disturbances of the heart.

The team’s research centered around two themes, the first of which is finding new ways to optimize the care of patients with an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) or cardiac resynchronization therapy plus defibrillator (CRT-D). The second is further exploring results from the landmark MADIT-RIT trial, led by Moss, which found that a simple change in defibrillator programming increased patient survival and reduced inappropriate shocks delivered for rhythms that aren’t life threatening.

Highlights include research by Valentina Kutyifa, M.D., postdoctoral research associate at URMC, who had two highly-rated abstracts, dubbed “High Scoring Cool Abstracts” by the Heart Rhythm Society. In one abstract, Kutyifa found that CRT-D therapy didn’t affect arrhythmic risk among patients with an ejection fraction (a measurement of how well your heart’s pumping) greater than 30 percent, possibly because these patients have fewer irregular rhythms than those with a lower ejection fraction. Kutyifa says these patients might not need a defibrillator, which would eliminate costs, potential complications and the risk of inappropriate shocks.

Work by Nicholas Venci, M.D., a second-year resident in the Department of Medicine, was also recognized by the Society. His research on specific markers from ECG readings and their use in predicting arrhythmias and death in ICD patients was selected for presentation during a Featured Posters session.

Other noteworthy abstracts include one authored by Ben Peterson, a fourth year medical student. Peterson studied the parasympathetic nervous system, which is important in governing the heart’s response to stressors like diabetes and high blood pressure. His data revealed that CRT-D patients witDr. Wojciech Zarebah mild to moderate heart failure whose parasympathetic nervous systems were still intact – they still reacted to various stressors – were at significantly increased risk of irregular heart rhythms or death. Patients whose systems were depressed had the opposite outcome – they weren’t at increased risk of arrhythmias, but more likely to die of pump failure. The study provides another marker for physicians to take into account when assessing risk in heart failure patients.

Dr. Zareba presented results of a multicenter study evaluating risk factors for ventricular arrhythmias or death in patients with ICDs who had suffered a heart attack. In this NIH-funded study he identified a novel computerized marker that was a powerful predictor of potentially lethal ventricular arrhythmias.  

For more about the Heart Research Follow-up Program, click here