Phoenix hospital helping patients with heart failure live longer

For some people with heart failure, a life saving transplant isn't an option, and daily life can be very difficult for these patients.

Also for these patients, their days, in most cases, are limited.

However, a heart device being implanted by surgeons at the Banner University Heart Center is giving new hope to these patients.

"I couldn't walk," said Barry Peretz. If I wanted to go to the marketplace like a fry's or costco, I'd walk maybe an isle and I'd have to find a seat catch my breath. I was always out of breath."

Life for Peretz, 71, is much different nowadays. He's not out of breath anymore, among many other things, thanks to his LVAD, or "Left Ventricular Assist Device".

"Things weren't going anywhere," said Peretz. "It's an everyday thing. You get up if you're alive you're good. If you're not alive, you're not as good as you were."

At just 33 years old, Peretz had a heart attack. Since then, he has had to struggle with heart failure, until the LVAD. Peretz, who wasn't a candidate for a life-saving heart transplant, had the surgery in November. Since then, he has more energy, he's working out, cooking, and feeling fortunate to be alive.

"I don't go to the hospitals in the middle of the night, or have to call an ambulance and get them to fly me to see me," said Peretz.

The LVAD is a mechanical pump that is implanted inside of a person's chest to help the heart pump blood.
Unlike an artificial heart, it doesn't replace the heart. Rather, it just helps it do its job.

"What the pump does is we surgically implant it into the left ventricle, to the apex of the left ventricle. Then we connect an outflow device to the aorta, and what it does is when you turn it on, it will actually draw blood out of the left ventricle and push it into the aorta, doing the work of the left ventricle," said Dr. Orazio Amabile, a cardio-thoracic surgeon. "Because the left ventricle is failing, it doesn't work, it cant eject very well out of the aortic valve and into the body."

The device is used in two different scenarios.

"One is as a bridge to transplant. In other words, we want to keep this patient alive until they can get an organ, until they are transplanted and their lifespan is extended," said Dr. Radah gopalan, an advanced heart failure cardiologist. "In patients who are elderly, then we use this device as the sole therapy. In other words, they live with the device until forever."

Dr. Amabile said patients have to wear two battery packs, around the clock, to keep the device working. Also, there is no swimming or getting the device wet, and bandages need to be cleaned regularly. For some, it's all small prices to pay, with all things considered.

"When they come in here, they're on their last leg, and it's either they go home and die, in usually a week or two, or they get their pump implanted, and within three months, they're pretty much back to normal," said Dr. Amabile.

Dr. Amabile said the program will continue to grow, and will keep getting better, helping more people have more quality years of life.

"It's been discovered that it's a long term pump. It can last up to a decade so far," said Dr. Amabile. "There's people in Europe and the United States that have had it for more than 10 years. As the technology has gotten better and as the device, more implants have occurred, we've had more people having it for longer periods of time."

"For me, just the idea of seeing family and grandchildren. I'm married 51 years to my beautiful wife Gail, and to not have to leave that all of a sudden, to give myself another week, a month, or a day, 2 years, 5 years, 10 years," said Peretz.

The Heart Institute at Banner - University Medical Center Phoenix