Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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World's Smallest Heart Pump Offers Veterans New Hope

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World's Smallest Heart Pump

“This innovative catheter-based heart pump is helping us save lives by providing temporary support for patients who are experiencing advanced cardiac failure or shock in recovering from heart attack or other injury,” said David Paniagua, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.S.C.A.I., co-director, Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory, (left) with the device and Irakli Giorgberidze, M.D., Electrophysiology Laboratory director. PHOTO: Bobbi Gruner

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

HOUSTON – A miniature pump, so small that it can be inserted through an artery and placed inside the heart within a few minutes, offers new hope to critically ill heart attack and heart failure patients at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and is a major cause of disability. Almost 700,000 people die of heart disease in the U.S. each year.

The Abiomed Impella 2.5 catheter-based heart pump is considered to be the smallest heart pump in the world. The ventricular assist device replicates the natural function of the heart by assisting the heart’s main pumping chamber to drive blood through the body.

“This new technology is helping us save lives by providing temporary support for patients who are experiencing advanced cardiac failure or shock in recovering from heart attack or other injury,” said David Paniagua, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.S.C.A.I., co-director, Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory. “The device allows the patient’s heart to rest and recover in some cases, or it can sustain the patient’s life for hours or days until a heart transplant or more permanent support device is implanted.”

“We can also use this pump for high-risk, critically ill patients who need to undergo angioplasty or stenting procedures to open blocked arteries,” said Biswajit Kar, M.D., F.A.C.C., Interventional Cardiology director and also an assistant professor of Medicine-Cardiology at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM).

The pump is inserted through the skin in the catheterization laboratory (cath lab) via the main artery in the leg and is threaded up into the left ventricle or main pumping chamber of the heart. It is a brief, minimally invasive procedure that takes the physician about ten minutes to perform. Approximately two and a half liters of blood are delivered per minute by the pump from the left ventricle into the ascending aorta, providing the heart with active support five times faster than other devices.

Traditionally, treatment involves the standard intra-aortic balloon pump, also inserted with a catheter, which has been in use since the 1950s. This high-tech ventricular assist device provides a new advanced treatment option that can be implanted in the cath lab unlike most ventricle heart assist devices that require open-chest surgery to be implanted.

“This innovative device can also be used to assist the heart during ablation procedures when a patient experiences a life threatening arrhythmia,” said Irakli Giorgberidze, M.D., Electrophysiology Laboratory director and assistant professor of Medicine at BCM.

“It is a significant breakthrough that we can implant this cutting-edge device using a minimally invasive approach in the cath lab,” said Paniagua who is also assistant professor of Medicine at BCM. “It can pump faster and provide a much greater blood flow than the standard balloon pump.”

“We strive to offer our veterans the latest and the best in the field of cardiology,” said Biykem Bozkurt, M.D., F.A.C.C, Cardiology Section chief and a professor of Medicine at BCM. “We are proud the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center has some of the best doctors in the country and offers the latest, minimally invasive alternatives for our Veterans.”

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Awarded re-designation for Magnet Recognition for Excellence in Nursing Services in 2008, the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center serves as the primary health care provider for more than 130,000 veterans in southeast Texas. Veterans from around the country are referred to the MEDVAMC for specialized diagnostic care, radiation therapy, surgery, and medical treatment including cardiovascular surgery, gastrointestinal endoscopy, nuclear medicine, ophthalmology, and treatment of spinal cord injury and diseases. The MEDVAMC is home to a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Clinic; Network Polytrauma Center; an award-winning Cardiac and General Surgery Program; Liver Transplant Center; VA Epilepsy and Cancer Centers of Excellence; VA Substance Abuse Disorder Quality Enhancement Research Initiative; Health Services Research & Development Center of Excellence; VA Rehabilitation Research of Excellence focusing on mild to moderate traumatic brain injury; Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Center; and one of the VA’s six Parkinson’s Disease Research, Education, and Clinical Centers. Including the outpatient clinics in Beaumont, Conroe, Galveston, Houston, Lufkin, Richmond, and Texas City, MEDVAMC outpatient clinics logged almost 1.3 million outpatient visits in fiscal year 2011. For the latest news releases and information about the MEDVAMC, visit www.houston.va.gov.