Implantable device pumps up ailing heart

DALLAS, May 14 In one of the longest follow-up studies of an implantable left ventricular assist device, heart failure patients reported a substantially improved quality of life, according to a report in todays rapid access issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Two research teams reported the study, which included four British patients. Three of them are still alive after an average of 3 months from implantation of the device. All were considered ineligible for heart transplants due to their age and poor kidney function.

The device includes the pump itself and a battery pack that lasts eight hours between recharges. The pack is worn at the waist or carried in a small shoulder bag. The batteries are attached through a cable that plugs into a small pedestal-shaped electrical unit implanted in the skull behind the ear. The pump has a small controller box that can be use to adjust for high and low activity levels.

One patient, the second to get the device, developed a brain hemorrhage under the electrical pedestal. Although the hemorrhage was successfully treated, he remained on a ventilator, suffered right heart failure and died about three months after receiving the pump. Subsequently, skull thickness was measured by computerized tomography and the surgical technique was modified to prevent such penetration.

The other patients went home three to eight weeks after receiving the pump and returned to normal activities. There were no infections or blood clots reported in or near the device.

This small, simple, safe pump can be implanted with little or no time on a heart-lung machine. It poses very little risk and can boost the patients native heart function, says O.H. Bud Frazier, M.D., chief of cardiopulmonary transplantation and director of surgical research at the Texas Heart Institute and chief of transplant services at St. Lukes Episcopal Hospital in Houston. The device, called the Jarv

Contact: Carole Bullock
American Heart Association

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