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Keeping your Heart Pumping: December 30, 2012

Symbolically it’s our emotional center; in reality our heart is the power center that moves our life’s blood. But millions of American’s are living with a faulty pump, getting a new heart was the final option for heart failure- until now.

“There are a number of types of devices that are not actually artificial hearts but they’re external pumps that can improve the pumping function of the heart,” says Dr. Richard Chazal, cardiologist with Lee Memorial Health system.

One is the left ventricle assist device or LVAD.  One end hooks up to the left ventricle, the other attaches to the aorta. A tube passes outside through the skin and connects to the controller and power pack.

“Increasingly in the United States left ventricular assist devices are being used for longer periods of time. In the past they were used exclusively as a bridge therapy but nowadays, some people are having them for longer periods,” says Dr. Chazal.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney is an LVAD success story. It kept his heart pumping for almost two years. Another heart saver is the wearable defibrillator, which acts as a life preserver for the heart.

“It weighs less than two pounds; it’s like a belt you are wearing.  It has an outside monitor with a battery pack, and it has a two contact EKG contacts, it’s not attached to your skin but close to the skin. It senses your heart every beat,” says Dr. Murali Muppala, cardiologist with Lee Memorial Health System.

Meant for short-term use, the device can jump start the heart if needed.  It’s meant for specific cardiac patients.

“Someone who has recent heart attack and had a stent put in.  In the first 30 days, the risk of sudden cardiac death goes up significantly.  If you anticipate they are going to have sudden cardiac death, those are the folks that might benefit from a wearable defibrillator,” says Dr. Muppala.

With modern technology, patients are living stronger, longer. Even with a change of heart.