There is no feeling quite as helpless as being a patient in need of some type of organ transplant. The uncertainty of knowing how long it will take to find one, and then wondering if the body will accept it. That feeling of anxiety has to be even worse for those in need of a replacement heart as it is the machine that pumps blood to the rest of the body. With the goal of trying to curb some of this fear, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave approval recently for a new type of heart pump.
What does this heart pump do? It essentially acts as an assistant for the lower left chamber of the heart, helping to push much needed blood throughout the body. No, it is not a heart transplant capable of doing the job for someone whose organ needs replacing. What this pump can do though is help out some facets of an ailing heart, allowing blood to be sent throughout the body, which perhaps might give patients those extra days needed to make it to a transplant.
One might ask if this technology has been tried before. In this case, the answer is yes. A Washington Post piece on the subject notes that there have been other approved ventricular assist devices, but in those cases, the units were bigger in size. That is where the makers of the new pump by HeartWare hope they can do much more for the patient. The HeartWare device is much smaller than those previously implanted into patients.
The size of the older models made them unable to be used in some patients where the device simply could not fit in the space available. With its much smaller size, the company hopes that their offering will be able to assist even more users, who before may not have survived because older implants could not be used. The next obvious question for patients possibly looking to get this device would be how safe are they?
The FDA obviously thinks they pass the test; otherwise it would not have been approved. They cited as evidence for approval the results of testing done by HeartWare that encompassed 137 patients with advanced heart failure. Each of these patients had the device inserted in their chest, and the results found that there was the same low totals of adverse events as there had been with the older devices. Not sure if that is going to send people out racing to get one, but it does give patients with heart failure hope that they can hold on while awaiting the needed transplant.