The world's smallest heart pump at St. Bernards

The world's smallest heart pump at St. Bernards
(Source: KAIT-TV)
(Source: KAIT-TV)

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - A medical lab hit the road and landed at St. Bernards Heart and Vascular on Friday.

Medical professionals with St. Bernards spent part of their day in an Abiomed Mobile Learning Lab.

This is an interactive learning experience designed to train medical staff directly on the world's smallest heart pump, the Impella.

Dr. Max Arroyo is an Interventional Cardiologist with St. Bernards Heart and Vascular said the device allows them to help people they couldn't before.

"It's sort of an artificial heart," Dr. Arroyo said. "It has an inlet valve that goes inside the left ventricle, which is the actual chamber that pumps blood into the rest of the body. It sucks blood from the left ventricle and ejects it into the aorta. The importance of that is if you have a heart that is very weak or a heart that is stopped at the time, this Impella device can do the work of the heart for a short period of time obviously. Not for a long period of time. But for a short period of time it can provide cardiac output. It can provide blood to the body, to the circulation. Just to give you an example, a normal heart will beat about five liters per minute. Somebody with a weak heart or heart failure would do two and a half liters per minute or so. The two devices that we use do two and a half and three and a half liters per minute. So, it helps us assist a patient during a high-risk procedure."

Cardiologists, nurses, and cath lab staff at St. Bernards got to learn about the Impella and how these heart pumps best can be used for specific patients in critical need of cardiac support.

The mobile lab contained a variety of simulators, animations, and critical information, all presented by a team of Abiomed trainers.

Dr. Arroyo said he has had positive experiences using the Impella device.

"It has been really, really good," Dr. Arroyo said. "We have been able to help patients that have not been able to have procedures because their heart is very weak and the procedure would be too high of a risk. People that have multi-vessel coronary disease, meaning they have multiple blockages in many different arteries, and perhaps their heart is very weak or their lungs are very weak or their kidneys or all of them. And they are too high risk for open-heart surgery. Without this device, we would not have been able to help them with multi-vessel stinting. Now, we place this device and we can do multiple stints in the same procedure and help this heart be better."

Teresa Rolland of Cherry Valley wasn't doing so well last year.

"I was just real tired," Rolland said. "I was exhausted all the time. I passed out at work and was brought to the St. Bernards emergency room. Soon afterward I found out what all could be wrong with me."

Rolland had the Impella device put in March of last year.

She said today her life is a completely different story.

"I can do more," Rolland said. "I can stay at things longer. Cleaning out closets is a breeze now. Where it would take me a week to do one because it was so exhausting to do anything. Now, it doesn't bother me."

Rolland said she would recommend this procedure to anyone.

"Have it done," Rolland said. "It can make a world of difference in how you feel and what you can do.

More than 45,000 patients in the United States have benefited from the Impella.

Copyright 2017 KAIT. All rights reserved.

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