Tiny Device Makes Big Difference For Weak Hearts

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Having one vessel blocked is bad enough. Having several can mean a complex procedure requiring a strong heart when it's often at its weakest.

Dr. Seshu Rao, an interventional cardiologist with Cotton-O'Neil Heart Center, says, when heart function is already depressed, the ebbs and flows that happen during a surgical procedure can cause further decline, and the heart would not be able to support itself through the procedure.

The Impella catheter-based device can give it a boost. it's billed as the world's smallest heart pump. Surgeons insert the catheter through a hole in the leg, up through the aorta and into the left ventricle, where it takes in blood and helps supply it to the rest of the body.

It not only can be used to support a weakened heart through surgery, Dr. Rao says it also can be left in for a few days following a heart attack. The heart is a muscle, he explained, and the device can provide support to the damaged muscle during the healing process.

Dr. Rao has been using the Impella device in Topeka for about a year. He says it not only allows patients to undergo more complex procedures closer to home, it also opens new possibilities for some people once deemed unfit for medical intervention. He says he is now able to give those patients an option for improving their heart function so they can improve their quality of life in ways such as becoming less dependent on oxygen or simply breathing more easily.

Because of how the device is inserted, Dr. Rao says some people with smaller vessels or severe peripheral artery disease may not be candidates for the pump.

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