Cardiac specialists at St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver are first in North America to implant new-technology heart pumps

    VANCOUVER, Sept. 27 /CNW/ - Cardiac specialists from the Providence Heart
+ Lung Institute at St. Paul's Hospital are the first in North America to
successfully perform two breakthrough heart-pump implants in patients with
failing hearts using new-generation ventricular assist devices (VADs).
    The small but powerful heart pumps, no larger than a few grams, are
intended as short-term relief for hearts with declining function or following
surgery. They reduce the heart's workload while providing blood to body
    The two procedures were performed about a week apart in mid-August,
marking the first time outside of Europe the devices have been used and saving
the lives of both patients, whose heart function had reached critically low
    Dr. Anson Cheung, Surgical Director of Cardiac Transplant and Mechanical
Circulatory Assist Device of BC, performed the procedures, assisted in the
first case by cardiologists Drs. Ron Carere and Eve Aymong.
    The first patient, Carl Smith, a 41-year-old father of four from
Cloverdale, was admitted to St. Paul's with a seriously weakened heart. He had
a left ventricular pump weighing just eight grams inserted via a catheter in
the groin area and then threaded through an artery to the heart. After five
days he was successfully weaned off the device, having regained sufficient
heart function to be safely discharged home.
    The second patient, a 59-year-old Mission man, received a different
version of the same device, a 17-gram right ventricular pump, which was
implanted through the chest. The patient had just received a heart transplant
but required the device for six days to allow his new heart to regain
strength. The patient has since been discharged.
    The devices, known by the trade name Impella and manufactured by ABIOMED,
Inc., can pump as much as five and a half litres of blood per minute, the
equivalent of a healthy heart. They can sustain patients from a few hours to
10 days, until their heart has recovered or is strong enough to be transferred
to another means of support.
    The Impella pumps are now a standard of care within the St. Paul's Heart
Centre Advanced Heart Failure Program. The devices replace the earlier
generation of short-term cardiac support, called extracorporeal membrane
oxygenation (ECMO). Similar to a heart-lung machine, an ECMO device
continuously pumps blood from the patient into a machine that removes carbon
dioxide and adds oxygen, then returns the oxygenated blood to the patient.
    ECMO machines are large and unwieldy, requiring 24-hour supervision by a
perfusionist, immobilizing patients and putting them at increased risk of
stroke, bleeding and restriction of blood flow to the extremities.
    The new Impella devices are tiny by comparison, relatively easy to
implant, do not require a perfusionist, have fewer complications and allow the
patient to be transported easily within the hospital and to and from other
    The devices do not replace the much larger, long-term VADs, which use
technology both inside and outside the body to maintain blood circulation and
enable patients to go home with the device for up to a year or more.
    The St. Paul's Advanced Heart Failure Program, which serves all of BC, is
funded by the Provincial Health Services Authority and Providence Health Care.
    As part of the Providence Heart + Lung Institute at St. Paul's Hospital,
the Heart Centre is BC's most comprehensive referral centre for patients with
heart disease, a major teaching facility for cardiac professionals, and a
leader in investigating heart disease causes and treatments.
    Launched in June 2007, the Providence Heart + Lung Institute at St.
Paul's Hospital merges and integrates all of Providence's heart and lung
research, education and care programs under one umbrella. Its mandate is to
transform cardiovascular and pulmonary research and care-transferring new care
solutions from the laboratory to the clinics and communities to improve the
lives of British Columbians.

    Providence Health Care is the largest faith-based health care
organization in Canada, operating seven sites in Vancouver, BC, including St.
Paul's Hospital, Mount Saint Joseph Hospital, Holy Family Hospital, Marion
Hospice, and complex care/residential services at Langara, Brock Fahrni, and
Youville sites. Providence provides care in partnership with Vancouver Coastal

For further information:

For further information: Gavin Wilson, Providence Health Care
Communications, Pager (604) 667-4397, Cell (604) 312-4839, Tel. (604)

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