Omaha, Neb – Dewey Smith thought he was sick. When the 61-year-old Council Bluffs, IA man drove himself home from work one morning in February, he didn’t realize he was quickly dying.
“I don’t remember calling 911,” said Smith. “By the time I got to the hospital, my heart had stopped – I had no pulse.”
Staff at another local hospital revived Smith, and told him he had a massive heart attack.
“We were on the phone making my funeral arrangements,” remembered Smith. One of his doctors made a different call – to The Nebraska Medical Center.
“The FDA had just approved the use of the HeartMate II,” said Ioana Dumitru, MD, heart failure specialist at The Nebraska Medical Center. “Dewey seemed to be an excellent candidate for its use. He would have died without it.”
Smith was transferred to The Nebraska Medical Center for surgery to implant the HeartMate II.
“It’s an open heart surgery,” explained Mohammad Quader, MD, cardiothoracic surgeon and director of the heart transplant program at The Nebraska Medical Center. “We connect the device to the left ventricle of the heart. The blood travels from the left ventricle into the pump, and then the pump pushes blood into the aorta.” The HeartMate II provides several advantages over previous mechanical assist devices.
“It’s more reliable,” said John Um, MD, cardiothoracic surgeon at The Nebraska Medical Center. “It has fewer moving parts than other devices, so it’s less likely to have problems. Fewer parts mean smaller size. That allows us to implant the device in smaller patients; women, even teenagers. These are people who would not have been able to have a mechanical assist device before.”
Other mechanical assist devices use pressurized air to propel the blood around the body. The HeartMate II uses a small turbine, similar to a screw, which spins and moves the blood. The device also requires a constant energy supply. Patients must keep the device plugged into an electrical outlet or a mobile battery pack.