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Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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New Device at Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center Offers Hope to Heart Patients

May 29, 2007

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At the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC), patients too ill to survive heart surgery can now be treated with a new device designed for those with the sickest of hearts. The TandemHeart® is a small, left ventricular assist device (LVAD) for patients with extremely poor heart function. “Before and after my procedure is like night and day,” said U.S. Air Force Veteran Wendel Coleman above with Biswajit Kar, M.D., F.A.C.C, director, Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory. “I know they [VA] have great doctors, like Dr. Kar. He’s the man I wanted to be standing at the operating table.”
PHOTO by: Bobbi D. Gruner, Public Affairs Officer

 

HOUSTON – At the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC), patients too ill to survive heart surgery can now be treated with a new device designed for those with the sickest of hearts. The TandemHeart® is a small, left ventricular assist device (LVAD) for patients with extremely poor heart function.

According to the American Heart Association, almost 5 million Americans live with heart failure and more than 550,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. Sometimes, when patients in heart failure arrive at the hospital, they are so ill that any sort of surgery or therapy could be fatal. That is where this new, cutting-edge technology comes in.

"The device is for the most critically ill patients," said Biswajit Kar, M.D., F.A.C.C, director, Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory. “The Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC) is the first VA hospital in the country and one of the very few in the Texas Medical Center to use this innovative technology.

Interventional cardiologists make a small incision in the groin area, guide the device through the blood vessels, and place it in the heart's left atrium. It remains attached by thin tubes that are connected to a pump outside of the body. It works to divert blood, reducing the workload of the pumping chamber. Oxygen-rich blood is withdrawn from the left atrium of the heart and returned through the large artery.

The device was used for the first time at the MEDVAMC in May on a patient with artery blockage. "His heart was so weak he would not have survived a surgical procedure," said Biykem Bozkurt, M.D., F.A.C.C, chief, Cardiology Section.

“Before and after my procedure is like night and day.  When I was in the ambulance, I told them I wanted to go to the VA because I’ve been coming here for 25 years now,” said U.S. Air Force Veteran Wendel Coleman.  “I know they have great doctors, like Dr. Kar. He’s the man I wanted to be standing at the operating table.”
 
The LVAD is strapped to the patient’s thigh near the exit of the tubes from the body and assists with heart function. The patient then has time to allow his or her heart to heal, become stable enough for other types of medical intervention such a long-term, surgically placed heart pump or angioplasty, or prepare to receive a new heart via transplant.  

“By placing the patient on the left ventricular assist device, Dr. Kar and I were able to stabilize his heart and insert stents into the blocked arteries,” said David Paniagua, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.S.C.A.I., co-director, Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory.

The LVAD has been approved for temporary cardiac backup, not long-term use. The pump can deliver flow rates up to four liters a minute at a maximum speed of 7,500 rotations per minute.

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