Kevin Ray (far right), senior training manager of advanced clinical applications at Abiomed, Inc., gives a demonstration on the workings of the Impella pump. The Impella is the world’s smallest heart pump and is inserted by means of a catheter through the right femoral artery in the leg. Staff from Saint Agnes Medical Center were given a course by Abiomed on the Impella on Wednesday.

published on October 2, 2017 - 1:19 PM
Written by Donald A. Promnitz

Cardiology staff at Saint Agnes Medical Center in Fresno refreshed their memory and skills with a course on the world’s smallest heart pump.

At the medical center’s campus, those attending last week were given a course on the Impella pump provided by Abiomed, Inc., the device’s developer. A trailer was set up for the staff where demonstrations were given on the workings and application of the pump.

“We’re big on education for both patients and for physicians,” said Keith Hallier, the cardiologic accounts manager for Abiomed in Fresno. “We’re out here—Saint Agnes has been a leader in heart recovery locally here, so we’re out here to educate, reeducate the physicians, the staff and even sometimes the patients out here that have had Impella pumps in before.”

An in-hospital device, the Impella pump is placed in the left ventricle, the chamber of the heart which pumps blood throughout the body.

“At times when patients come in with heart attacks or other conditions… their ventricle is weak and is not able to support a blood pressure,” said Dr. Alfred Valles, and interventional cardiologist for Saint Agnes. “And so this is a way of getting their blood pressure up enough that their organs will profuse.”

Without the ventricle pumping blood, the other systems in the body will begin to go into failure and die, a condition known as cardiogenic shock. In order to prevent this, the Impella is inserted into the patient by means of a catheter in the femoral artery in the right thigh. From here, it travels upwards and into the left ventricle.

Once inside, the Impella acts as a substitute for the chamber while repairs are made to the heart and while the patient recovers.

“I’ve had quite a good experience with this device in the cardiac surgery patients that have very impaired heart function,” said Dr. Peter Birnbaum, a cardiothoracic surgeon, “and definitely, I’ve seen that what the utility of the pump is, that it will help bridge the heart to recovery.”

Both Dr. Valles and Dr. Birnbaum credit the pump with helping save the lives of many patients. Nonetheless, Dr. Valles stressed that with constant innovations being made in medicine, doctors and other staff need to stay on top of the changes.

“All of those things are changing, so that the device we’re using now is not the device,” he said. “So continuing education with the use of the device is important, but it’s also being done to raise awareness that this is available and that can be used in situations like cardiogenic shock. “

In recognition of this success, the US Food and Drug Administration has approved of another pump by Abiomed. Last week, the Impella RP was given the green light for right heart failure.

The new pump was previewed in Fresno last Wednesday as well.

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