By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Using electricity to zap away heart failure is something that’s being tested here in Philadelphia. 3 On Your Side Health Reporter Stephanie Stahl has more about the experimental technology.

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,” explains Stephen.

So the 74-year old is being fitted with a small device called CardioFit. It’s designed to stimulate a nerve in his neck and ease those symptoms.

“I am generally hoping to prolong my life, buy some time,” Stephen says.

The stimulator, which is about the size of a pacemaker, is implanted under the skin. A sensor is 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 to help regulate the heart rate and relieve stress on the cardiac muscle.

“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,” explains Dr. Vivek Reddy, a cardiologist.

Patients may start to see their symptoms improve several weeks after undergoing the procedure. And the stimulation is also being used to treat epilepsy and depression.

Doctors are testing the device, which is already approved in Europe, at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. For more information on what they call the “INOVATE-HF study,” call 215-955-2050.

Temple University Hospital hopes to be part of the trial soon.

Stephanie Stahl