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Cardiac assist system now available at University Hospital

A device now in use at University Hospital will keep heart transplant patients alive as they wait for a donor heart.

The device, Abiomed's BVS 5000, is a biventricular support system that operates blood pumps, temporarily taking over the heart's pumping action until the heart can recover or be replaced by a transplant.

"When heart failure is triggered by electrical irregularities, a patient has multiple options, including drugs, defibrillators and pacemakers," said Gregory Fink, M.D., a cardiac surgeon at University Hospital. "But when heart failure is caused by the heart's inability to pump sufficient blood, a patient has few therapeutic options and a high likelihood of heart-related death. That's where this device becomes a lifesaver. It can stabilize the patient, do the work of the heart until the patient is given a new heart."

University Hospital is one of only 500 hospitals in the nation—and the only hospital in Central New York equipped—with the life-saving device. The Abiomed BVS 5000 is the only device approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for a patient with potentially reversible heart failure and is the most widely used cardiac assist system in the world.

Patients placed on this device are usually then transferred to Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester for heart transplant. "Strong and University Hospital have made a commitment to work together on getting these patients to surgery as quickly as possible," Fink said.

In Central New York, it is estimated that about 100 patients a year are candidates for the ventricular assist device. There have been incidents where patients without access to such a device died in transit between Syracuse and a heart transplant hospital.

The BVS 5000 includes a pneumatic drive console that operates one or two blood pumps independently, providing support to one or both ventricles of the heart. The system automatically adjusts beat rates and flows.

The surgically installed BVS 5000 temporarily corrects or compensates for the failure of the heart muscles to pump sufficient blood—a failure that accounts for nearly half of all heart-related deaths.

Patients who can benefit from the BVS 5000 include those suffering from heart attacks, viral infections, end-stage heart disease or failing transplants. Eligible patients have exceeded the limits of pharmaceutical therapies, cardiological intervention and surgical correction.

The device is most frequently used with patients whose hearts do not immediately recover their function following heart surgery—estimated at one percent of a hospital's surgical patient population.

With more than 700,000 cardiac deaths per year, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. and one of the leading chronic conditions affecting the U.S. population.