By Liz White, UT staffAuckland, New Zealand-The successful implantation on 4 May 2005 of a new heart device into a 56-year-old man with moderate heart failure has opened up a new route to giving such patients better long-term health. The device, called the C-Pulse, is a balloon inside a cuff, that is wrapped around the outside of the major artery from the heart (the aorta), and pumps in time with the heartbeat-an action called 'aortic counterpulsation,' says developer Sunshine Heart Inc. of St Leonards, Australia. C-Pulse is powered by an external source, and assists the heart in its pumping function-externally. Implanting the device requires open-chest, but not open-heart surgery and is non blood-contacting, the firm added, in a statement on the first implantThe C-Pulse can be implanted at any hospital that performs heart surgery, and does not need a transplant centre. During the operation the patient does not need to be placed on a heart-lung machine, which further reduces the risk of the procedure, Sunshine Heart added. The cuff is made of a polyester and the balloon of a polyurethane-both materials are FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) Master File approved materials, the firm said.Its developer says the C-Pulse is "distinctly different to left ventricular heart assist devices (LVADs) - it's non blood contacting, simpler, safer, smaller, less expensive, easier to implant and can be turned on and off." An estimated 325 000 Australians have symptomatic heart failure as do 5 million people in the US. Patients in Class III heart failure struggle to walk short distances and get short of breath with minimal exertion. Such patients need frequent hospital treatment.Currently, intensive and not necessarily very effective drug therapy is their only option: they are not yet sick enough to receive a conventional heart assist device, such as an LVAD. Since the risks associated with these devices are high, they are only used on very sick patients. If trials prove successful, devices such as C-Pulse may offer the potential to be used early enough to allow the heart to recover its function, some experts say. "