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Cardiac transplant specialist at Piedmont Heart Institute

From failing heart to new heart without a transplant

When a patient is suffering from heart failure, there are options beyond a heart transplant.  A cardiac transplant specialist at Piedmont Heart Institute, explains that a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) can take the heart from failing to essentially brand new. “An LVAD is a heart pump,” he explains. “It takes blood from the left side of the heart, which is the pumping chamber, and accelerates it into your body. It turns a failing heart into a new heart.”

There are two categories of patients that benefit most from LVADs: those who are acutely ill and those who have chronic heart failure. “A patient who is acutely ill may suffer from a heart attack or have a viral illness that causes their heart to stop. The pump takes over and is lifesaving,” he explains. “In the second group, heart failure has been chronic. This is an additional therapy we are able to offer here at Piedmont.”

Dramatic improvements in heart failure patients

“Most patients cannot walk even 100 meters without getting short of breath,” he says. “After they get an LVAD and recover from their surgery, not only can they walk 100 meters without getting short of breath, they are able to do things like ride motorcycles and go fishing. They are able to live their lives.”

The term “destination therapy” means than an LVAD is used for long-term, permanent treatment in patients who are not candidates for a heart transplant. Thanks to the LVAD, “patients are not going to get a heart transplant. They love it because their lives are markedly improved.”

The procedure

“An LVAD procedure is performed like any other open heart surgery,” says a cardiothoracic surgeon at Piedmont. “Patients are put on the cardiopulmonary bypass machine. We don’t stop their heart. We then put a pump into the left ventricle by making a small hole in the heart and attaching the other part to the aorta, which is the blood vessel taking blood away from the heart.”

Since bringing the technology to Piedmont, the LVAD program has grown significantly. “I think the program really blossomed because here at Piedmont, it’s a very unique situation where the heart surgeons and cardiologists are all one group,” he says. “Because of that, we really do work as a team.

The word spreads really quickly throughout the hospital and the rest of my partners, so we are getting more patients and doing well.” For more information about the LVAD procedure and who it can benefit, visit Piedmont Heart Institute.

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