Piedmont Heart Institute implants ventricular assist devices that extend life in heart failure patients.
BLUE RIDGE, Ga. (March 23, 2011) – In April 2008, Clair Underhill’s best friend, Mara Roberts, took her to the Emergency Department at Piedmont Mountainside Hospital and watched the life go out of her. But today, with an assistive device from Piedmont Heart Institute, Clair can look back on that day as nothing more than a step in the journey. During that emergency room visit, Clair’s heart was restarted with a defibrillator shock, and she was airlifted to Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta for open heart surgery.
Since that procedure she has had a pacemaker and a defibrillator implanted in her chest, but after an attempt to install a mitral valve clip she was weak and failing. In a meeting with Piedmont Heart Institute Cardiologists Vivek Rajagopal, M.D., and Nirav Y. Raval, M.D., she was told about the LVAD (left ventricular assistive device), and she says, “I didn’t see that I had any choice.”
For patients with acute congestive heart failure, who can’t wait for a heart transplant, Piedmont Heart Institute operates a VAD program, including LVAD (left ventricular assist device), which helps the left side of the heart pump blood out to the body. The LVAD is surgically implanted inside a person’s chest to hook the left ventricle to the aorta, the main artery supplying blood to the rest of the body. Although the pump is only about the size of a D battery and the incision into which it is placed is about the size of a quarter, the implant requires open-heart surgery on patients who are extremely ill.
“We’ve already had excellent survival rates,” says David Dean, M.D., a renowned cardiothoracic, heart transplant and ventricular assistive device surgeon who came to Piedmont Hospital to launch Piedmont Heart Institute’s heart transplant unit. “We have dramatically improved these patients’ chances of survival as well as the quality of their lives.”
“Now I make breakfast. I sweep the floor. I feed the cats. I load and unload the dishwasher,” says Underhill, who is a “young” 65 years old. “My heart is getting stronger. I really feel fine.”
For more information about Piedmont Hospital’s mechanical cardiac assist device program and the Advanced Heart Failure Center, call 404-605-3066 or visit piedmonthospital.org.