New York, NY (CBS NEWS) -- Heart failure affects more than six million people in the United States and researchers are testing a new way to relieve the often debilitating symptoms.
Stephen Brown is in heart failure, meaning his heart can't pump enough blood to the rest of his body.
"Within in the past six months, I had been increasingly fatigued, dizzy occasionally, a little more trouble sleeping, a little more trouble breathing," says heart patient Stephen Brown.
The 74-year old is being fitted with a small device, called CardioFit, as part of a clinical trial at Mount Sinai Hospital that's designed to stimulate a nerve in his neck and ease those symptoms.
During the procedure, a stimulator the size of a pacemaker is implanted under the skin. A sensor is then placed into the heart and an electrode is put around the vagus nerve in the neck. When the sensor detects heart problems, the stimulator sends mild electrical pulses up the vagus nerve to help regulate the heart rate and relieve stress on the cardiac muscle.
The device is already approved in Europe and vagus nerve stimulation has also been used to treat epilepsy and depression.
"The ability of the heart to squeeze is actually improved. This is an improvement that is sustained not just in the short-term but is sustained out to at least 24 months," says Dr. Vivek Reddy.
"I am generally hoping to prolong my life, buy some time," Brown says.
Patients may start to see their symptoms improve several weeks after undergoing the procedure.
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