Entries in LVAD (2)


Surgery Offers New Hope for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy Patients

Courtesy Cincinnati Children's Hospital(CINCINNATI) -- Although he made it to 29 years old with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, Jason Williams was not expected to survive more than another year.

But this week, doctors announced that Williams no longer has an expiration date.  Thanks to a groundbreaking surgery that's never been performed on a Duchenne patient in the United States before, there's no telling how many more birthdays he'll be around for.

"The most important thing this device has given him is hope, because without it, we know what's going to happen," said heart surgeon Dr. David Morales, who implanted Williams' Left Ventricular Assist Device, or LVAD, on Sept. 5 with a team of doctors at Cincinnati Children's Hospital.

Duchenne muscular dystrophy is an inherited disease characterized by progressive muscle weakness because of a mutated protein gene.  It only affects boys, and usually sets in when the child is between 2 and 6 years old, first confining the child to a wheelchair and ultimately weakening his heart and killing him by his late teens or early 20s.

"He's going to be with us longer than we ever anticipated he would be," said Williams' mother, Karen Jones, as she stood next to her son, who wore a Cincinnati Reds T-shirt and Cincinnati Bengals pants during the news conference.  

Williams gazed out at the crowd from his wheelchair, puffing from a tube to help him breathe.  When reporters asked what he was looking forward to, he told them: the Reds.

Williams was diagnosed when he was 7 years old, and has been a patient at Cincinnati Children's Hospital, 70 miles away from his home in Peeble, Ohio, ever since.

When his doctors asked him to be the first Duchenne patient to receive a LVAD to help his weakened heart muscle pump blood to the rest of his body long-term, he delved into research before deciding to commit.

"I just thought it might improve my health," he said in a telephone interview the night before the conference.  During the conference, he added, "I wanted what would give me more energy."

Adding to that motivation, Williams' younger cousin has the same disease, his mother said.  Experimental surgery on Williams could mean progress for his cousin and other younger boys with Duchenne.  About 2,500 boys are born with Duchenne every year.

Although LVADs are often temporarily implanted while patients await heart transplants, something Duchenne patients are not eligible for, doctors hope to use LVADs in patients like Williams until stem cell therapy becomes a reality.  Doctors will study how the LVAD affects the right side of Williams' weakened heart and how the availability of better blood flow to the rest of his tissue improves or prevents his condition from progressing.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Heart Failure Patients Seek 'Cheney Pump'

Frank Siteman/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The pump that kept Dick Cheney's blood flowing while he waited for a heart transplant has seen a surge in popularity, a trend credited in part to the 71-year-old's successful 20-month stretch with the device.

"The reality is that many patients have come to us asking about the 'Cheney pump,'" said Dr. Robert Kormos, director of the Artificial Heart Program at the University of Pittsburgh, referring to the Left Ventricular Assist Device, or LVAD, that pumped Cheney's blood on behalf of his failing heart. "His positive presentation while on the device has very much been positive for the public impression of the therapy."

For Cheney, the LVAD was a bridge therapy, a temporary fix while the former vice president climbed a lengthy transplant waiting list. Cheney received his new heart Saturday at a hospital in Falls Church, Va. But for some patients, the device is a long-term solution to heart failure, a condition that kills 300,000 Americans each year.

"There is no doubt that more and more patients are doing well [on LVADs] for long periods of time," said Dr. John Byrne, chair of cardiothoracic surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. Unlike bridge therapy, "destination therapy" keeps patients on an LVAD indefinitely. "In my mind, the distinction between destination therapy and bridge therapy is becoming less important. I suspect VP Cheney's successful transplant will add to the enthusiasm for [L]VAD therapy as a viable long-term option for many patients with severe cardiac failure."

Experts say Cheney's 20-month stint with an LVAD is average or slightly longer than usual for someone awaiting a heart transplant. But some patients have lived with the device for several years.

Cheney's success might also prompt heart failure patients to consider an LVAD earlier on.

"Regardless of the circumstances that led to [Cheney] being transplanted at this time rather than staying on the LVAD permanently, his favorable LVAD experience has been confidence-building and will likely lead to greater use of LVADs," said Dr. Timothy Gardner, medical director or the Center for Heart & Vascular Health at Christiana Care Health System in Newark, Del. "In particular, it is likely that LVAD implants will be performed a bit earlier in the course of a patient's heart-failure deterioration."

But long-term use of LVADs comes with risks. The open-heart procedure to implant the device can cause life-threatening bleeding or infection, according to the Mayo Clinic. And after the LVAD is successfully implanted, blood can clot inside the device. Patients are sometimes prescribed blood thinners, which also carry risks. There's also a chance the battery-operated machine could stop working.

"VP Cheney's LVAD was not used as destination therapy; it was used as a bridge to transplantation," said Dr. William Abraham, MD, director of cardiovascular medicine at Ohio State University in Columbus, who was not involved in Cheney's care. "That said, his case does demonstrate good outcome on an LVAD over 20 months and supports the use of LVADs for end-stage heart failure. This is well-supported by the LVAD trials and we are seeing a steady increase in LVAD use."

"The greater awareness of LVADs because of VP Cheney should drive further growth," Abraham added."I do have patients that inquire about getting the type of device he had."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio