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Vidant/ECU offering new life-saving treatment for advanced heart failure

July 06, 2017 by Amy Holcombe

GREENVILLE – As part of its mission to improve the health and well-being of eastern North Carolina, Vidant Medical Center (VMC) in partnership with the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University (ECU), is now offering a new life-saving treatment option for patients with advanced heart failure.

The HeartMate II™ LVAD (left ventricular assist device) is an implantable pump that restores blood flow throughout the body, significantly improving quality of life and survival.

“Advanced heart failure is a serious medical condition with staggering impact on patients and society,” said Dr. Hassan Alhosaini, advanced heart failure cardiologist with ECU who leads the LVAD therapy team with ECU cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Hazaim Alwair. “Eastern North Carolina now has a full spectrum of options to treat advanced heart disease patients close to home,” he added. 

Some patients with advanced heart failure are candidates for a heart transplant. However, donor hearts are not always available and patients 65 and older typically aren’t eligible for one.  Fortunately, recent advances in the field of mechanical circulatory support allowed for the development of LVAD therapy as a short or long-term support option for advanced heart failure patients.

The HeartMate II LVAD is implanted alongside a patient’s native heart and is designed to take over the pumping ability of the weakened heart’s left ventricle. The device is placed just below the diaphragm in the abdomen. It is attached to the aorta, leaving natural circulation in place while providing all of the energy necessary to propel blood throughout the body. An external, wearable system that includes a controller and batteries is attached via an external driveline. A power cable connects the device to a small power base unit.

Walton Jones, Jr., of Craven County was the first patient to receive an LVAD implantation at VMC. Diagnosed with heart failure in 2008, he was experiencing a major decline in his functional capacity and quality of life by the time he received the LVAD implant several weeks ago.

Today, Jones says he is enjoying a remarkable improvement in his quality of life, one that would have been impossible without this innovative therapy.

“I feel much better, I feel good, my memory is coming back and my strength is coming back,” he said. “I knew I wanted more time. They say there have been people with 10 years [added to their life because of LVAD therapy], so whatever I get beyond a year, I’ll be happy.”

According to the American Heart Association and the Heart Failure Society of America, nearly six million Americans are living with heart failure, and 670,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. The burden of advanced heart failure is much greater in eastern North Carolina than elsewhere across the state, due in part to the high prevalence of cardiac risk factors and underlying health disparities in the region.

 

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