Health Report: Mechanical Heart Pump Revolutionizing Heart Failure Care

Just a few years ago, most patients suffering from advanced heart failure faced a grim outlook.

While some patients were fortunate to get a heart transplant, the majority of patients died, especially if their age made them ineligible for a heart transplant. While mechanical heart pumps have been around for many years, the technology has made drastic advances more recently.

Prior generations of pumps generally lasted for a year or less, and they were so bulky that they greatly limited mobility and most patients had to remain hospitalized.

A little know mechanical pump — the left ventricular assist device (LVAD) — is revolutionizing the way many of these seriously ill patients are cared for, giving them a new lease on life, allowing them to return to a largely normal routine and keeping them alive for years even if a heart transplant never materializes.

Baseball Hall of Famer Rod Carew is one of those patients.

The Major League Baseball legend was implanted with an LVAD last October at Scripps Health’s Prebys Cardiovascular Institute after he suffered a massive heart attack and was subsequently diagnosed with advanced heart failure.

Five months later, Carew is healthy enough to make his annual pilgrimage to south Florida to be part of spring training for the Minnesota Twins, one of his former teams. His doctors say he also is ready to be evaluated for a heart transplant.

“LVADs can mean the difference between life and death for a failing heart,” said Ajay Srivastava, M.D., a Scripps Clinic heart failure cardiologist who has cared for Carew.

“There have been comprehensive improvements in LVAD technology in the past decade, and there is definitive evidence demonstrating that patients with advanced heart failure live longer with a LVAD compared to standard medical therapy,” he said. “Now, patients can live permanently with a LVAD if necessary.”

The Scripps LVAD program has earned the highest accreditation from The Joint Commission with the Gold Seal of Approval and Advanced Certification.

“My second chance at life is a testament to the cutting-edge treatment and the genuine care for me and my family provided by the surgeons, my cardiologists and all the staff at Scripps,” Carew said.

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