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Serbian man has his end-stage heart failure reversed

A Serbian man saw his end-stage heart failure reversed after having excess levels of iron removed from his blood.

The 31-year-old patient, placed on the waiting list for a new organ, relied on an electrical pump to keep his heart beating.

But after being started on iron chelation therapy – which uses drugs to remove the metal – doctors noted his deadly condition was cured.

Australian doctors removed his biventricular assist device – given to heart disease patients to boost circulation – after treatment was successful. 

The 31-year-old patient, placed on the waiting list for a new organ, relied on an electrical pump to keep his heart beating (stock)

They published the tale in the Journal of Medical Case Reports, claiming it is the most successful result from iron chelation therapy in history. 

Writing in the journal, doctors said: ‘This case reaffirms the premise that myocardial iron loading is a reversible cause of heart failure even when at its most severe.

‘Where available, support with extracorporeal or assisted circulation can provide the time required for chelation to occur. 

‘To this date such a significant… improvement from single-agent chelation therapy, as achieved in this case, is yet to be documented.’ 

Heart failure, which comes in separate stages, occurs when the organ fails to pump blood around the body as well as it used to. 

More than half a million people in the UK have been diagnosed with heart failure, which normally strikes after the organ is damaged. 


Iron chelation therapy revolves around removing excess levels of the metal from the body.

Doctors given patients drugs – most commonly desferrioxamine – to rid them of iron in their urine.

It is the main treatment for patients with iron overload – as the metal can build-up in the organs and damage them.

Prognosis is poorest for end-stage heart failure, which is when patients feel like their organ beats faster even where they are sitting.

Treatment for this stage of heart failure, deemed the most severe, revolves around a heart transplant, ventricular assist devices or palliative care.

Tests showed the man, whose name is unknown, was suffering from a rare condition called juvenile hemochromatosis. Its prevalence is unknown. 

The patient, who was suffering from shortness of breath and extreme lethargy, was referred to intensive care by concerned doctors.

Doctors at Alfred Hospital, Melbourne, diagnosed him with the condition, which is known to be treated by iron chelation therapy.

He began the treatment – deferrioxamine – on his sixth day being treated in intensive care – but was temporarily stopped as a precaution.

It was restarted on day 21, and proved to be a success. He was discharged seven weeks later and continued the treatment at home while he slept.

Surgeons removed his electrical pump 141 days after it was first implanted, with tests confirming his iron levels had dropped.

The man has made a ‘near-complete’ recovery and has returned to work. It’s believed that he is still on the waiting list.