Partial Artificial Hearts Take Giant Leap with Smaller Pump

Lutheran announces first patient implanted with newest ventricular assist device is recovering well

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (May 20, 2008) – Today, Lutheran Hospital announced that one of its patients had become the first in the region to receive the new Thoratec HeartMate II Left Ventricular Assist Device. Gary Snearey, 61, of Middlebury, Ind., was the recipient of the LVAD, a device designed to pump blood for the heart’s weakened left ventricle. Patients who receive the LVAD, a partial artificial heart, are in advanced-stage heart failure and are usually waiting for a heart transplant. Statistics show that 20 percent of patients waiting on a heart transplant die before one becomes available. The LVAD gives these patients a better chance at life because the device allows them to stay healthy long enough to receive a transplant.

Snearey suffers from congestive heart failure. He was admitted to Lutheran Monday, May 5, at which time he was designated 1A, the most serious category for patients on the heart transplant waiting list. He received the HeartMate II Wednesday, May 7, during a three-hour procedure. Within four days of implant, Gary was out of bed and walking.

“When Gary was admitted his heart was only pumping at about 10 percent. He was literally running out of time,” said Alan Peterson, MD, director of the circulatory support device program at Lutheran Hospital. “After receiving the device, his condition improved almost immediately. The development of VADs during the last two decades has been simply amazing. It’s like comparing a World War I biplane to a modern stealth fighter.”

LVADs implanted by surgeons at Lutheran in the early 90s weighed approximately 5 lbs. The HeartMate II, which was approved by the FDA April 21, weighs approximately 12 ounces and is slightly bigger than a pacemaker.

“This is beyond my wildest dreams,” said Snearey from his hospital bed. “It is astonishing to me that a motor driven by a magnet that pumps blood through my heart is inside my body. It’s whisper quiet – I can’t even hear it at night.”

As one of the leading cardiac centers in the state, Lutheran has implanted 97 VADs since 1987. The center offers a wide range of advanced cardiac care and is the region’s only heart transplant facility.

About the HeartMate II (
The HeartMate II is implanted alongside a patient’s native heart and designed to take over the pumping ability of the weakened heart’s left ventricle, which is responsible for pumping oxygen-rich blood from the lungs throughout the body. The device is placed just below the diaphragm in the abdomen. It is attached to the aorta (the main artery that feeds blood into the entire body) from the natural heart, leaving natural circulation in place while providing all of the energy necessary to propel blood throughout the body. An external, wearable system that includes a controller and batteries is attached via an external driveline. A power cable connects the device to a small monitor, a power base unit. The HeartMate II Left Ventricular Assist System (LVAS) can pump up to 10 liters of blood per minute, covering the full output of a healthy heart. The HeartMate II is designed to provide long-term cardiac support for patients who have advanced-stage heart failure. An axial flow device, the HeartMate II is designed to have a much longer functional life than the previous generation of devices and to operate more simply and quietly. It is also smaller and designed to be easier to implant. Bench studies project that the HeartMate II LVAS has the capability to operate for up to 10 years.

About Heart Failure
The American Heart Association estimates that about five million Americans are affected by congestive heart failure, with 550,000 new cases diagnosed each year. The prognosis for patients with advanced heart failure is poor, with projected one-year mortality rates exceeding those of other terminal diseases such as AIDS, leukemia and lung cancer. According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease remains the number one cause of death in the United States. Though transplants offer hope for approximately 2,000 advanced heart failure patients each year, more than 250,000 patients have no viable treatment option and are considered at high risk for repeated hospitalizations, severely diminished quality of life and limited life expectancy. Recent advancements in mechanical circulatory support (MCS) therapy, through the implantation of a ventricular assist device (VAD), offer new hope for this patient population.

The Lutheran Heart Center
At Lutheran Hospital, every month is heart month. Whether we're supporting the national Go Red for Women campaign, offering advanced surgical- and catheter-based options for the treatment of atrial fibrillation or providing the region's only heart transplant program, Lutheran is driven to deliver unsurpassed heart care year-round. Even before it established the region’s first Coronary Care Unit in 1967, Lutheran was keenly aware of the special needs of heart patients and their families. Through periods of exciting change, Lutheran has continued to build relationships with local physicians and medical professionals who share a passion for providing patients with the knowledge, skill and technology needed to remain on the cutting edge of heart care.

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