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Scripps Health Takes Part In Nationwide Study Of Heart Attack Treatment

An illustration of red blood cells.
Scripps Health
An illustration of red blood cells.

The Prebys Cardiovascular Institute in La Jolla is taking part in a nationwide clinical trial of a technique that uses supersaturated oxygen to reduce tissue damage suffered by heart attack patients, Scripps Health announced Wednesday.

Four patients have been treated so far in the study, which examines the effectiveness of an experimental system — developed by an Irvine-based company — when used in conjunction with angioplasty, stenting and medication. The institute is the only California site participating in the trial.

"A heart attack is like a house fire, the longer it takes to put it out, the more structural damage that is done," said Dr. John Harrington, an interventional cardiologist who is leading the study at Scripps.


"By infusing higher concentrations of oxygen into the artery responsible for the heart attack, we can decrease the size of the area of heart muscle that is damaged because it is deprived of oxygen," Harrington said.

Every year nearly 1 million people in the U.S. have a heart attack, typically caused when the blood flow carrying oxygen to the heart is reduced or blocked. Although the standard for heart attack care is angioplasty and stenting, for many patients those treatments aren't enough to salvage dead or damaged heart tissue that was starved of oxygen, according to Scripps Health.

In the therapy developed by TherOx Inc. — known as SSO2 — supersaturated oxygen is mixed with saline and directed by a catheter into the patient's coronary artery, where it infuses the capillary bed and surrounding heart tissue. The procedure takes about one hour.

A study of a previous version of SSO2 found that it reduced the damaged area of the heart tissue by a median of 26 percent when compared to angioplasty and stenting alone.

Harrington has used the experimental treatment on two San Diego men in September, a third two weeks ago and a fourth on Tuesday.


The study seeks to enroll 100 patients who suffer their first heart attack and receive the treatment within six hours of first experiencing symptoms, in order to validate the system's safety and effectiveness. Enrollment is expected to be completed by February.