Key feature of HeartMate II heart assist device developed at University of Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH, Nov. 20 The HeartMate II, a new left ventricular assist system (LVAS) implanted for the first time in the United States by surgeons at the Texas Heart Institute in Houston, uses a sophisticated control system developed by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's (UPMC) McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine that senses when to increase or decrease the rate of blood flow. Other approved and experimental devices require manual adjustments.

The implant launches a U.S. pilot trial to test the safety and potential effectiveness of the HeartMate II, a miniature rotary pump with axial flow bearings, for patients with end-stage heart failure. Made by Thoratec Corporation, the device is designed to eventually provide long-term cardiac support for patients who are in end-stage heart failure.

UPMC is one of four centers that will test the device in seven patients who are candidates for heart transplantation. The device will be evaluated initially for use as a bridge to heart transplantation.

The control system developed by University of Pittsburgh researchers involves a patented algorithm that permits the LVAS to respond to the needs of the patient based on the level of activity, generating up to10 liters of blood flow per minute, a rate that would be required to climb stairs, for example. The controller was the brainchild of James Antaki, Ph.D., a member of the McGowan Institute who is also now a faculty member of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

"This algorithm is essentially the intelligence of the system. Engineers don't need to stand at the patient's side in order to adjust the device to one of a few fixed settings, which is the case with other devices, even newer ones in trials. We are especially proud of this contribution to the design of HeartMate II," noted Robert Kormos, M.D., professor of surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and medical director of the McGowan Instit

Contact: Lisa Rossi
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

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