What is CCM Therapy?

A new method of cardiac therapy in the form of an implantable device is helping some heart failure patients improve their symptoms. Scott Feitell, DO, explains how CCM therapy works.

Feb. 13, 2023 5   min read

A female Black doctor in a mask listens to a Black male patient's heart using a stethoscope

Nearly 6.5 million people in the U.S. are living with heart failure, according to the Heart Failure Society of America. Most of these patients will experience symptoms such as shortness of breath, fatigue, and/or edema.

If medication and other therapies are not helping a heart failure patient improve, a new treatment called CCM therapy might be worth exploring with their cardiologist.

We asked Scott Feitell, DO, the Director of Heart Failure and the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit with Rochester Regional Health, to explain what CCM therapy is, who is eligible for it, and how it improves heart health.

What is CCM therapy?

Short for cardiac contractility modulation therapy, CCM therapy is a treatment for heart failure patients that works by delivering electrical impulses at specific time intervals to help stimulate the ventricles – the lower chambers of the heart.

By applying electrical signals to the ventricles just as the heart muscle begins actively contracting, the device – called the Optimizer® Smart – gives the heart a slight boost to help it make a stronger contraction.

The Optimizer® Smart delivers CCM therapy to the heart for five one-hour intervals; each one-hour interval is followed by a rest period that lasts just under four hours. The device is recharged each week for one hour.

CCM therapy is approved for patients who meet certain criteria, including:

  • LVEF (Left ventricle ejection fractions) of 25-45 percent
  • Current treatment for heart failure symptoms with no improvement
  • Insurance coverage

“If someone has been on medication to help with heart failure symptoms for several months and is not seeing significant improvement, it might be a good time to have a conversation with their cardiologist about CCM therapy,” Dr. Feitell said.

Implanting the CCM device

For heart patients, placing the Optimizer® Smart device is a low-risk procedure and is similar to receiving a pacemaker.

Over the course of the 60-90-minute procedure, a provider will make a small incision under the patient’s collarbone, then feed a catheter through the incision down through a vein to the patient’s heart muscle. A wire is then run through the catheter and secured to the heart muscle, then attached to the Optimizer® Smart device battery pack.

The provider will then test the device to ensure it is working properly, then sutures the incision. Each patient stays overnight for observation and is released to go home the next day.

Keeping an eye on recovery

Most patients have a smooth transition after recovering from the procedure. They are advised not to drive or carry heavy objects for 1-2 weeks to allow the incision to heal, but otherwise do not have any restrictions.

Patients often tell their cardiologist that they begin to notice improvements in their symptoms – some as early a day or two after the procedure.

Each patient has a follow-up appointment within one month of the procedure. Cardiologists will check with their patients to see if they are improving in different areas, including shortness of breath, fatigue, and distance walked over a 6-minute period.

“It is incredibly rewarding, especially with the rapid growth in technology, to be able to offer our patients these opportunities to improve their quality of life,” Dr. Feitell said. “When a device like this becomes available, it reignites my passion for taking care of heart failure patients.”

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