“I thank God every day,” says Amanda Goehring, who today is 27 and runs her business in Evans City—all because of an implanted mechanical heart pump she received in 2003. Back then she thought it was just the flu. But it was much worse. At age 23, she was in heart failure and fighting for her life.
Causes of heart failure include heart attack, high blood pressure, attack by a virus—the latter being what left Amanda with an extremely weakened heart muscle and in cardiogenic shock. Her best option at the time was a transplant, but there was a chance she would not live long enough for a donor.
Fortunately, there was another option for Amanda: a mechanical heart pump, or ventricular assist device (VAD). First used in 1982, today’s VADs are more streamlined and permit the heart to rest and recover. And in Amanda’s case, heal.
Amanda had a mechanical pump implanted at UPMC’s Presbyterian Hospital. It remained in place for about 2 months. An infection forced its removal sooner than originally planned, but her heart had recovered enough to take over without major problems.
UPMC emergency room practitioners are now changing their approach to treating acute heart failure patients. A team of doctors is being formed who will assess treatment options for those who come to the hospital in shock caused by a failing heart. Because of their success and popularity, VADs are a part of the therapy to give a heart the rest it needs to heal on its own.
“You’re not asking the heart to work at the same time it’s trying to heal,” says McGowan Institute faculty member Dr. Robert Kormos, director of the Artificial Heart Program at UPMC. “I’m enthusiastic about the field opening up.”
Illustration: Levacor VAD. –WorldHeart Inc.
Pittsburgh Business Times (05/25/07)