Advances in Heart Failure Treatment
Implants and Heart Pumps
Using meds to manage heart failure isn’t the best choice for everyone. Devices like the ones described below can help your heart beat normally, and may be a good option for you.
Left ventricular assist device (LVAD): Your left ventricle is the big chamber on the left side of your heart. Its muscles pump blood to your body. An LVAD is a pump that’s implanted into that left ventricle and tubes that pull blood in and out of the heart. It can help your ticker pump blood when it’s too weak to do it on its own.
It’s hooked to a battery you carry outside of your body. If you’re set to get a heart transplant, an LVAD can keep your heart working until your procedure.
Heart pumps are getting smaller, easier to implant, longer lasting, and better matched with your blood, Lowes says. Newer LVADs also pump blood continuously, which makes them more efficient than older options.
Implantable cardioverter defibrillator: This gives your heart an electric shock when it senses a life-threatening change in rhythm. Newer models are implanted under your skin, and they don’t require leads or wires through your veins.
Cardiac resynchronization therapy: A type of pacemaker, this tiny, implanted device helps your heart beat in a regular rhythm. A new type can send electric pulses to more spots on your ticker’s surface. This will mean you won’t need to have it adjusted as much.
Pacemakers are also being improved. One being tested now that's not yet available is smaller than current ones. It’s also wireless, and it can be put in through a leg vein instead of by an incision in your chest.
CardioMEMS: A new implant allows doctors to monitor your heart and adjust your treatment, if need be, Lowes says.
It measures the pressure on your arteries and your heart rate. It’s about the size of a small paper clip, and it’s inserted into an artery without the need for batteries or wires.
Lowes says this allows you to monitor yourself at home. This can help keep you out of the hospital and improve your quality of life.
Many folks with heart failure need to start over with a new heart through a transplant. But an exciting new option is the total artificial heart.
Two types are now being used by a few people: the CardioWest and the AbioCor.
Both are implanted into your heart to replace the lower two chambers that can no longer pump blood. The CardioWest has an outside power source. The AbioCor runs on an implanted battery.