Ventricular Assist Devices Saving Lives
As the United States' population ages, the incidence of heart failure will continue to grow. Heart transplantation is the answer for many patients suffering heart failure, but the number of donor hearts available for transplantation falls far short of demand. The number of heart transplants performed yearly has not increased in decades. Ventricular assist devices (VADs) help fill the gap.
VADs, miniature blood pumps designed to support an ailing heart, can buy patients time until a heart donor becomes available, or allow a weakened heart to rest. But more doctors are seeing VADs as a permanent solution.
"As these devices get smaller, as they get easier to implant, as they last longer, and as people are able to adjust to living with them, they are going to provide a new tool to extend life," says Sean P. Pinney, MD, Assistant Professor of Cardiology and Director of the Advanced Heart Failure Program.
Studies suggest that VADs, combined with traditional heart failure medications, can help heart cells recover. Mechanical support may do more than just give a boost to a sluggish heart. During heart failure, the heart changes in molecular, cellular, biochemical, and structural ways. For some, the degree of recovery has been good enough to allow removal of the pump and prevent the need for a heart transplant.
Mount Sinai’s VAD and transplant programs have both seen steady growth and stellar outcomes. Both the shortness in length of hospital stay for VAD patients after surgery and their six-month survival rate surpass national benchmarks. Mount Sinai Heart anticipates implanting 35 to 40 VADs in 2010, an increase of about 50 percent over 2008.