Posted on March 9, 2010 at 3:29 PM
Tuesday, Mar 9 at 3:29 PM
There’s new hope for thousands of patients suffering from heart failure. It’s a new implanted pump that keeps the blood moving and vastly improves the quality of life.
For 60-year-old Tony Speranzo of San Angelo, just walking down the hall is a major triumph. Heart failure had left him weak.
“I could barely walk,” he remembered. “I couldn’t even walk a quarter mile without having to stop and rest for several minutes before I could get up and go again.”
In October, at CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Medical Center, Speranzo got a new lease on life. Doctors implanted a pump to help his heart work normally. The mechanical device takes blood from the left ventricle and circulates it.
“It’s a mechanical heart pump that replaces the function of the heart and allows somebody with advanced heart failure to have the blood flowing forward as it normally should,” explained Dr. Jay Pal, a cardiothoracic surgeon with the University of Texas Health Science Center.
Ventricular assist devices have come a long way since the first model gained FDA approval back in 1994. The newest version, called the HeartMate II, incorporates precision engineering and a simple design. It runs like a motor, pumping blood continuously.
Speranzo doesn’t have a normal pulse. He has to be checked with a blood pressure cuff and a Doppler.
For him, it’s serving as a bridge until his transplant, hopefully in a few months. But some patients can stay on it indefinitely.
“It gives me more energy,” Speranzo said. “I’m able to walk a lot further now. It has given me a better quality of life.”
Speranzo’s heart pump runs on external batteries, making him a bit of a bionic man. His surgeon says the device is a true medical marvel. “There has been such an improvement in the ability to support patients with pumps such as this,” commented Pal. “And there’s such an incredible improvement since the first generation device. And it certainly is an engineering feat.”
About 2200 heart transplants are performed in the U.S. each year. That means there are thousands of patients waiting for an organ who might benefit from this incredible technology.