Northwestern Medicine Surgeon First in Illinois to Implant Newly FDA-Approved Milestone Device for Advanced Heart Failure Patients
Jesus Garcia couldn’t breathe. His chest hurt terribly. He went to a hospital’s emergency room, then returned the same day.
The third time, he told his wife he was going to a different emergency department – the one at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
“They took me right away,” he said, adding he was quickly moved from the emergency department to an inpatient cardiac floor. “I couldn’t breathe. It was awful.”
Garcia sought a second opinion and from that, became the first patient in Illinois to receive the HeartMate 3 LVAD (left ventricular assist device), a new option for physicians managing advanced heart failure patients in need of short-term hemodynamic support (bridge-to-transplant or bridge to myocardial recovery). Implanted by Northwestern Medicine Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute cardiac surgeon Duc Thinh Pham, MD, the newly approved device improves blood flow and reduces trauma to blood passing through the system.
“This type of revolutionary technology has truly improved quality of life for patients, like Mr. Garcia, suffering from advanced heart failure,” said Dr. Pham, who is also an associate professor of surgery-cardiac surgery at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “The benefits to patients like him are almost instantaneous and allow us to work with him on a long-term plan for recovery.”
More than 5.7 million people in the U.S. suffer from heart failure and approximately 915,000 new patients are diagnosed with the disease each year. For advanced heart failure patients who can no longer rely on earlier stage treatment options, an LVAD can help their weakened heart pump blood through the body and provide crucial support as patients await further treatment, including heart transplants.
The HeartMate 3 system, smaller than previous LVADs, deploys new technology to reduce trauma to the blood passing through the pump while optimizing blood flow. Improved blood flow can help minimize complications – such as pump thrombosis – that can be associated with LVAD therapy, ultimately improving the patient's quality of life.
Northwestern Memorial Hospital currently has the best survival rates for Medicare patients suffering from heart failure of any hospital in the United States, a position it has held for more than two years, according to data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Recognizing heart failure as one of the gravest public health threats, Northwestern’s Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute prioritized treatment of the disease, creating a Bridge and Transition, or BAT team, to help ensure patients receive proper treatment, care and follow-up, from diagnosis to discharge and beyond.
Dr. Pham participated in the MOMENTUM 3 clinical study, which led to the U.S. approval of the HeartMate 3 system. In that study, patients who received a HeartMate 3 system had a significant improvement in their heart failure status, an 83 percent increase in their walk distance and a 68 percent improvement in quality of life at six months. Patients receiving HeartMate 3 also had an 86 percent survival rate with freedom from disabling stroke and reoperation to replace the pump at six months.
“Northwestern physicians, researchers and staff have been on the forefront of advances in treating heart disease starting with clinical trials,” said Patrick McCarthy, MD, chief of cardiac surgery at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and executive director of the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute. “We are committed to offering the most effective treatment for all our patients as well as supporting and developing the next generation of treatment for heart diseases in its many forms.”
Garcia, a married father of four, will use the LVAD until he receives a heart transplant, but his quality of life improved immediately after the device was implanted, he said.
“I can breathe better,” he said a few days after the surgery. “I am getting not just my health but my life back.”
The Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute is part of the Northwestern Medicine health system, with multiple sites of care in Chicago and the region. Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s heart and heart surgery program is ranked seventh nationally and first in Chicago, Illinois and the surrounding states by U.S. News & World Report. For more information, visit heart.nm.org or call 312.NM.HEART.
To learn more about Northwestern Medicine, visit http://news.nm.org/about-northwestern-medicine.html.