Designed to be worn straight after an attack, the special vest contains a device that generates low frequency soundwaves to make it vibrate and stimulate circulation to the heart.
The soundwaves spread across the chest and shake the heart and its blood vessels, breaking up blockages stopping blood flow.
Researchers, who are about to start a clinical trial at Mount Sinai Medical Center in the U.S., say that it reduces long-term, potentially fatal damage to the heart and enhances the effects of medication, as it opens up the arteries faster.
Every year, about 175,000 people in the UK have a heart attack — roughly one every three minutes.
They occur when the arteries that supply the heart muscle with oxygenated blood are blocked by a clot or a build-up of fatty deposits (plaque).
If the blood supply is cut off, that part of the heart muscle starts to die. A patient’s survival and any long-term damage hinge on how much muscle dies during the attack.
The smaller the area affected and the faster the blockage is removed, the greater the chance of survival and recovery.
In an emergency, paramedics give aspirin pills or glyceryl trinitrate spray under the tongue to increase blood supply to the heart by widening blood vessels.
But often patients need to be taken to hospital for life-saving medication to dissolve the blockages and surgery to keep the artery open.
The new treatment — upper torso vibro-acoustic stimulation — can be used by paramedics to clear arteries faster.
This, in turn, can increase the speed at which the anti-clotting drugs work by getting medication to the site of the blockage more quickly, report researchers in the online journal Cath Lab Digest.
The vest is fitted with a generator that sits over the chest.
In the new trial, 15 heart attack patients will get the vests or standard drug treatment for 30 minutes immediately after a heart attack. Researchers will then monitor outcomes and heart health for six months.
Commenting on the technology, Dr Punit Ramrakha, a consultant cardiologist at the Hammersmith Hospital in London, says this kind of technology, known as therapeutic sound, has been used successfully in treating a variety of conditions for many years.
‘The challenge for use in heart attack patients is delivering the right frequency to the right place at the right time,’ says Dr Ramrakha.
‘There is some data from animal studies that this can be done safely and effectively.
‘The technology they are using here is interesting and novel, and this would be a much easier way to deliver therapeutic soundwaves.
‘If this study works, it will provide yet another way that we cardiologists can treat patients with heart attacks and reduce the long-term damage.’