Cardiologists at Upstate are using a new pumping device to extend the lives of patients with severe forms of heart disease. Patients suffering heart failure, and those whose hearts are too weak to tolerate angioplasty are candidates for the device called Impella.
Doctors insert the pump through a catheter that enters the heart through its main artery, the aorta. The pump is about the size of a triple A battery. It spins rapidly, like a corkscrew, propelling blood backward from the left ventricle out to the body to maintain circulation.
Hani Kozman MD said some patients require the Impella during a medical crisis such as a severe heart attack. Other patients are considered high-risk for repairs to their coronary arteries, and the Impella is placed before the patients undergo their procedure. The disposable pumps, which may remain for a few hours up to several days, connect to monitors that provide the electrical source. Upstate has two monitors.
“It’s for the really, really sick patients, for whom there is no alternative,” said Kozman, Director of the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory at Upstate.
David Grugan was just such a patient earlier this year. The 62-year-old Auburn man said he has come close to death twice and is grateful to Dr. Kozman and the Impella, made by Abiomed. After a heart attack in 2009, Grugan had four stents placed to prevent blockages in his coronary arteries. Later, Luna Bhatta MD, Director of the Electrophysiology Laboratory, implanted a defibrillator in his chest that would automatically restart his heart if it stopped beating.
Months later, he began having very limiting chest pain and trouble breathing. He was found to have additional blockages forming in his coronary arteries, however with his weak heart function, these would be risky to fix. Kozman spoke with Grugan about his options, and Grugan said he appreciated the doctor’s honesty. His heart would need help pumping during the procedure. Grugan would be on the Impella pump while additional stents were inserted into his heart arteries. Grugan agreed.
“I thought I was going to be there for the weekend, because I had this done on a Thursday,” he recalled. But the day after the procedure, Kozman said Grugan could go home.
He said he had some pain at the procedure site for three weeks afterward but has recovered well. His symptoms have improved significantly and he is able to continue on with life as usual.