If you ask McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine
faculty member Robert Kormos, MD (pictured top), the Director Artificial Heart Program, Co-Director Heart Transplantation at UPMC, and Medical Director of Vital Engineering,
what are among the causes of heart failure he might reply heart attack, high blood pressure -- and in Amanda Goehring’s case -- attack by a virus, which can weaken the heart muscle. It was in 2003, Amanda’s best option was a heart transplant, but it wasn't certain she would live long enough for the surgery. Fortunately, there was another option for her: 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.
Dr. Kormos had successfully weaned a small percentage of patients from artificial heart pumps as their resting hearts regenerated. Amanda Goehring became one of those fortunate few. Her heart recovered to such an extent that she was able to avoid transplantation, and even the heart pump was eventually removed.
Today the team of medical professionals of the Artificial Heart Program has weaned about 20 such patients from heart assist devices. UPMC specialists, including Dr. Kormos, and Ms. Goehring’s cardiologist, McGowan Institute faculty member Dennis McNamara, MD (pictured bottom), director of the UPMC Advanced Heart Failure Center, hope these cases will offer lessons on heart regeneration that can help treat patients with heart failure as well as other heart disease. They are currently involved in research aimed at quantifying these experiences and developing treatment protocols to benefit heart failure patients from across the country and around the world.
Nearly 6 years after having open heart surgery, Amanda looks back on her experiences and is grateful to have landed in the hands of expert physicians. She’s grateful for the innovative treatment that allowed her to have a full recovery. She’s grateful for the second lease on life that blessed her with her son, Brody, and her husband, Doug Brewster.
Another former patient of Dr. Kormos is Erika Haas. During a recent podcast, they discuss Erika’s experience with a VAD and how it was used as a bridge to recovery. Listen to the podcast
Dr. Kormos is also the medical director of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine’s Clinical Translation Program and a professor with tenure specializing in cardiothoracic surgery at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. McNamara is also an associate professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh.
Illustration: McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
UPMC Today Winter 2009 Northwest
Bio: Dr. Robert Kormos
Bio: Dr. Dennis McNamara