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Heart Pump Helps Those Weak at Heart

February 07, 2022
Abdallah Kamouth, M.D.

A revolutionary heart pump is making a big difference for acute heart failure in patients with severe decompensation and for those who need a life-saving procedure to survive.

A subset of patients with severe acute heart failure can present with shock that leads to organ injury and dysfunction and this is associated with very high risk of death.

PCI, or percutaneous coronary intervention, is a procedure that restores blood flow to the heart in patients with coronary artery disease.

Formerly called angioplasty with a stent, PCI can be an elective or emergency procedure. Although PCI is one of the preferred methods for opening up clogged arteries and restoring blood flow, it poses risks for patients with multiple blocked arteries, acute heart failure, and who are in cardiogenic shock after a heart attack, says Dr. Abdallah Kamouh, chief of cardiology at MUSC Health Florence.

“The mortality risk for these patients is high,” Dr. Kamouh says. “Many of them are not candidates, or at very high risk for bypass surgery, often because of underlying health conditions, and their heart cannot pump enough blood for them to survive a safe PCI because their heart is too weak. They’re on the edge of dying.”

A percutaneously inserted heart pump, called left ventricular assisted device (LVAD), has changed the landscape -- and the outcome – for these patients.

“It gives patients a second chance,” he says.

The pump reduces strain on the heart and provides circulatory support by pumping blood from the left side of the heart to the body’s organs through the main blood vessel, called the aorta.

It is used when patients show severe heart failure decompensation with end organ damage. This pump will help them to recover from their acute illness and to buy them time in order to get more advanced heart failure therapy such as surgically placed LVAD or heart transplantation. Moreover, it is used in an acute heart attack complicated by cardiogenic shock and to facilitate high-risk procedures as well, Kamouh says.

Made of metal and attached to a thin, flexible catheter, the pump is inserted through the femoral artery in the leg and placed in the heart’s left ventricle. The non-surgical procedure takes about 30 to 60 minutes.

“Basically, the motorized pump sucks the blood out of the main chamber of the heart and pushes it through the aorta so the blood can circulate throughout the body,” Kamouh says.

For high-risk procedures the pump can be taken out at the end of the surgery. In other circumstances, usually the pump will be kept in place for few days depending on the patient condition to continue providing support to the heart.

Kamouh says the pump can also be used while a cardiologist assesses a patient’s condition and during other complex procedures.

“At MUSC Health Florence, we have all the tools to treat cardiac patients so they can live full lives. This device allows us to tackle more complex and risky cases with much less risk for the patient,” he says. “They’re living full lives because we were able to fix their arteries. It truly is life-changing for some patients who have no hope.”

This cutting-edge heart pump represents an ongoing effort to provide the best in all types of medical care at MUSC Health Florence Medical Center, a recognized accredited Chest Pain Center. The MUSC Health Heart and Vascular team is made up of: Cardiologists; Dr. Abdallah Kamouh, Dr. Sam Rahman, Dr. Mo Bourji, Dr. Gregory May and Dr. Daniel Ng; Electrophysiologist Dr. Parinita Dherange; and Vascular Surgeon Dr. Charles Stonerock and Cardiothoracic/Vascular Surgeon Dr. Dorn Smith, III. For more information, or to speak with a cardiologist, please call 843-674-4787.