A patient at Hammersmith Hospitals NHS Trust has become the first in the UK to receive an artificial heart pump inserted without the need for surgery.
Doctors at Hammersmith Hospital successfully placed the world's smallest heart support system, a 4mm-wide device, into the patient's heart, by inserting it into an artery in the groin and passing it up into the heart. The pump, implanted on Thursday (November 28) and removed a day later, assisted the patient's heart in the crucial few hours after coronary artery bypass surgery. The device offers hope for patients previously considered too ill to be operated on, by providing temporary support for the heart muscle during the critical period after a heart attack or surgery.
“This new impeller pump technology which can be put into the heart without invasive surgery will revolutionise the way we deal with heart disease,” comments Mr Peter Smith, consultant cardiac surgeon at Hammersmith Hospitals NHS Trust and lead surgeon. “The ease of using these pumps, particularly in patients with very diseased or damaged hearts, means that we can now successfully treat patients that we otherwise would have been unable to.“
The “Impella Recover® LP 2.5 left ventricle percutaneous placement” pump, manufactured by the German company Impella Cardiosystems, sits in the left ventricle, the largest chamber of the heart. Dr Kevin Beatt, one of the cardiologists assisting the procedure, explains “The pump sits inside the heart, and despite its tiny size can pump up to 2.5 litres of blood every minute. Because it is so small, it can be put in place without the need for any surgery. A tiny hole is made in the artery in the groin, and using guide wires, the pump is advanced through the artery until it sits in the right place.” X-rays are used to check the pump is in the right place. The pump uses an electrical motor connected to a 3mm wire which extends out of the patient, where it is connected to a battery and control pack the size of a small laptop computer.
The patient has now had the pump removed and is expected to make a good recovery. If needed, the pump can remain in place for up to five days.
“These devices are becoming increasingly cost-effective, especially when you consider the alternative to using them, which includes repeat invasive surgery and possibly transplant, and extended stays in hospital,” comments Mr Smith. “We have been astounded by how well this has worked, and have high hopes for the future of this technology.”