Vivian Williams: Currently, there are nearly 5 million people in the United States suffering from heart failure. Many of them will benefit from a heart transplant, but most of them are over the age of 65, so they are often not eligible for that life-saving surgery. But now, Mayo Clinic doctors are researching devices that not only help people with heart failure live longer, but also provide better quality of life.
After 76 years of music, end-stage heart failure silenced Verna Skrombeck’s piano.
Verna Skrombeck: I couldn’t sit on the piano. I wasn’t healthy enough. I wasn’t strong enough and my fingers didn’t work. I was in a very serious condition.
Vivian Williams: But thanks to the device embedded in the Mayo Clinic, Verna is back on the keyboard. This is called a ventricular assist device or VAD.
Margaret Redfield, MD — Mayo Clinic Cardiology: The· VAD Treatment is for people whose heart is enlarged and contraction is not successful. It does not squeeze the blood and pump it to the rest of the body.
Vivian Williams: Cardiologist Margaret Redfield soon teamed up with John Park as a surgeon.
Soon John Park, MD — Mayo Clinic Surgeon: It is a heart assist pump.
Vivian Williams: During the open heart, Dr. Park implanted the device near Verna’s heart. It is connected to the main pump chamber of the heart in the left ventricle and the main artery that carries blood to the body. A small wire extends outside her body and hooks into an external battery pack. When turned on, the pump takes over much of her heart’s work and delivers continuous blood flow to her body.
Soon John Park, MD: It can effectively replace most of the heart function of people suffering from heart failure.
Verna Skrombeck: It’s almost normal to get up and do something without remembering that you carry this LVAD device with you.
Vivian Williams: But Verna says carrying a battery pack that changes every five hours is a small price to pay for life and music.
VAD Treatments have been used to keep people alive while waiting for a transplant. Currently, it is being studied for use in people like Verna as a lifelong therapy. Dr. Park states that the technology is relatively new and will not yield long-term results, but the device has been around for seven and a half years.
For Medical Edge, I’m Vivian Williams.