New Artificial Pump Backs Up Hearts

Photo: A model of a heart

The new advice improved the
patients' quality of life; © SXC

The device, called a left ventricular assist device (LVAD), is the latest generation of heart assist devices. "LVADs have allowed us to support patients until they can receive a heart transplant," says researcher Gregory Ewald.

An LVAD is implanted near the heart and is connected to the heart's left ventricle. It assists the patient's weakened ventricle in pumping blood through the body. The device pumps blood in a continuous flow in contrast to earlier heart assist pumps that pumped in pulses. It contains a spinning rotor that is suspended by blood within the pump housing and magnetically rotated. Since the impeller blades do not touch any part of the pump, the chance of damage to blood cells is lessened. Because the device is powered by battery packs, patients can go home while they wait for a heart transplant.

The LVAD used in this study is termed a third-generation heart assist device. Measuring 2.5-inches across and weighing ten ounces, the pump is considered an improvement over earlier devices because its size and light weight make it suitable for small adults and children.

Patients who received the LVAD in the study were approved and listed for cardiac transplantation. The study considered the device successful if a patient survived until heart transplantation or survived at least 180 days after the device was implanted and remained qualified for heart transplantation. Eighty-five percent of patients met this measure of success.

Out of 98 patients who received the device, 60 were transplanted, 19 continued to be supported with the device and 19 died. Adverse events reported during the trial included stroke and bleeding, and the number and type of adverse events was similar to other LVADs but better than that of first-generation VAD devices.

The patients reported a significantly improved quality of life after receiving the device, indicating that their heart failure was less apt to interfere with everyday activities such as housework, hobbies or sleeping. "Before implantation of the device, 80 percent of these patients were rated class four on the New York Heart Association scale - they were short of breath at rest," Ewald says. "But by six months, 84 percent were in class one or two, meaning their heart failure symptoms were minimal or mild."

MEDICA.de; Source: Washington University in St. Louis