P&S Journal: Spring 1994, Vol.14, No.2
Centering on Heart Failure
The other significant clinical initiative at the center is the development and advancement of heart-assist devices, begun at CPMC by Dr. Eric Rose, professor of surgery and chief of cardiothoracic surgery. In Dr. Packer's group, the lead cardiologist for heart-assist devices is Dr. Howard Levin, assistant professor of medicine. "We want to become a major center for development of new heart assist devices," says Dr. Levin. To that end, the 1994 agenda includes a trial to test a left-ventricular assist device (LVAD) as an alternative to medical therapy in non-transplant patients. An LVAD is a mechanical, partially implantable device that helps pump blood from the heart's left ventricle to the aorta. The left ventricle, the heart's major pump, pumps oxygenated blood to the aorta, which in turn sends blood to the rest of the body.
Eventually Dr. Levin and Dr. Rose hope to test LVADs as an alternative to transplants in severe heart failure patients. (See P&S, Winter 1994.)
Dr. Levin is also testing an assist device that can assist the left, right, or both ventricles. The device, made by Abiomed, a Danvers, Mass., company, has been used at CPMC on a short-term basis, from two to five days, in five patients that have had right heart failure after LVAD placement or a transplant. "In these patients the right side of the heart needed help to overcome resistance of the lung circulation," says Dr. Levin.
Dr. Levin is negotiating with companies to test other types of LVADs and totally artificial hearts. Also, he is developing a device to use on a short-term basis in heart failure patients.