Ventricular Assist Therapy Helping More Heart Failure Patients

After a long battle with congestive heart failure, former Vice President Dick Cheney this month was implanted with a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) in order to help improve the pumping function of his ailing heart.  Cheney, who has had numerous documented heart problems and hospitalizations, undoubtedly opted to have the small internal heart pump installed in order to help him live a better quality of life, and potentially reduce his hospital visits in the near future.

An LVAD is a battery-operated, mechanical pump that aids the left ventricle in pumping blood into the aorta.  Most commonly, an LVAD is installed to help patients survive the wait until a fully-functioning heart is available for transplant. However, in some cases the LVAD is used as a form of destination therapy (in place of a transplant) for patients who are not candidates for heart transplant. In 2006, surgeons at Emory University Hospital implanted Georgia’s first ventricular assist device (VAD) as destination therapy.

“When offering LVAD destination therapy, our goal is to safely integrate patients back to their respective communities and normal mode of living,” according to David Vega, MD, surgical director of the Emory Heart Transplant Program.

“Ventricular assist devices offer new hope and a much greater quality of life for individuals who are not transplant candidates, patients who do not want a transplant or those who may be transplant eligible in the future.”

According to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) there are more than 3,100 Americans – 34 in Georgia – who are currently awaiting a heart transplant. Regardless of the number of donor hearts available, many patients are not candidates for a heart transplant for a variety of reasons including cancer, personal and religious beliefs, blood clotting problems, and other debilitating health conditions.

“There are approximately five million Americans who suffer from congestive heart failure, with another half million diagnosed each year. Many of these people are limited by the severity of their heart failure, yet are not able to be transplanted for one of many reasons,” adds Dr. Vega. “These devices may be a viable option for many patients, allowing them to resume a much more normal lifestyle and improved quality of living.”

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Lance Skelly

Associate Director, Public Relations Emory Hospitals lance.skelly@emoryhealthcare.org 404-686-8538 Office 404-686-5500 Pager (ID 14574) 404-290-0653 Mobile

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