Patients who have heart problems are now able to benefit from a miniature pump, called the left ventricle assist device, which is implanted beneath the heart. The pump works in an ingenious manner: it collects blood from the lower chamber of the heart, and then it pumps the blood into the aorta. Then, the blood is released through the body.
How does it work?
The pump is connected to a battery pack located on a shoulder holster, and it emerges from the abdomen. The device is called HeartMate II, and more than 8,000 people have already benefited from it. Thoratec, a company based in California makes the pump. HeartMate II is pretty expensive to purchase, as it costs $80,000, and on top of the price of the device, the patients also have to pay for the surgery. However, in case the patients are eligible for it, Medicare, and private insurers will cover the price.
Currently, this is the best option for the people who suffer from heart failure. Heart failure occurs when the heart cannot pump blood normally, because it has gotten too weak, for various reasons. There are more than 5 million Americans who suffer from heart failure. The problem is that because the body does not receive sufficient blood, the organs start to deteriorate. In time, people might have a very difficult time walking, as they get too tired, or they cannot move their arms and legs in the proper manner.
Pumps or other devices such as the HeartMate II, have been created a long time ago, and the task proved to be quite difficult. The initial pumps were too big to fit inside the patients. On top of that, in two years they were no longer working in the proper manner, and the doctors had to remove them. According to Robert Adamson, M.D., medical director of the Cardiac Transplant Program at Sharp Memorial Hospital in San Diego, the HeartMate II really changed things, as it is the first pump which actually works in the proper manner, and people can use it without any problems.
The main difference between HeartMate II, and the previous pumps is the way in which the blood is pumped into the body. Unlike the previous pumps which imitated the heart’s movement of pumping blood, meaning that the blood was squeezed out of a chamber, the new device uses a spin movement. Similar to a jet engine, the HeartMate II pushes a steady flow of blood throughout the entire body. The main advantage is the fact that the pump is small enough to fit in any type of body, as it has the size of a flashlight battery. According to the manufacturers, the pump is able to last up to 10 years, because it has only one moving part.
The pump can also be used in cases when the damage to the heart can no longer be reversed. Patients then use the pump in order to buy some time, until they can receive a heart transplant.