World’s Smallest Heart Pump Provides Minimally Invasive Option for Cardiac Patients

Chad Kimpel said it with a smile.


“I died. Multiple times.”


The 41 year old father of three from Farragut, IA first came to The Nebraska Medical Center on July 1, 2009. That was the day of the heart attack.


“My heart stopped before they got me on the life flight chopper to get here,” Kimpel recalled. “They shocked me and brought me back, but the doctor said I died several more times on the flight here. They kept bringing me back.”


Once at the medical center, Kimpel was diagnosed with heart failure. Treatments had him in and out of the hospital several times in the following months. When he returned to the medical center in January, his heart was working at just a fraction of its potential and his remaining arteries blocked. Kimpel’s cardiologists decided to place a stent in his artery.


A new type of heart pump allowed doctors to place the stents while Kimpel’s damaged heart continued to work. Instead of preparing for major heart surgery, Kimpel’s doctors placed the Impella 2.5 in his heart inside a cardiac catheterization lab at The Nebraska Medical Center. He was sedated, but awake during the procedure.


“The Impella acts almost like an artificial heart,” explained Ed O’Leary, MD, cardiologist at The Nebraska Medical Center. “Without this machine, his blood pressure would drop to dangerously low levels and he might not make it through the procedure.”


Dr. O’Leary inserted the Impella pump through the femoral artery in Kimpel’s left leg. He then guided it through his body into his heart. Once in place, the straw-sized pump assisted Kimpel’s heart by pulling blood out of the left ventricle and into the aorta. By keeping his blood flowing, the cardiology team was able to keep Kimpel’s blood pressure stable while placing the stents in his artery. Once the stents were placed, the Impella pump was removed and Kimpel’s heart was pumping blood through a newly cleared artery.


“Dr. O’Leary told me it was as close as I could get to having a new artery,” Kimpel said.


The Impella is designed to help the heart for short periods of time.


“There are machines that do the work of the heart,” Dr. O’Leary said. “Those bypass machines are used during open heart surgery. During those surgeries, the heart is stopped and the bypass machine does the work of the heart. Bypass surgery would have been very risky for Chad. With as weak as his heart was, it might have been very difficult to get his heart re-started after surgery.”


Instead of a long and risky open heart surgery, Kimpel’s angioplasty took only two hours. The Impella carried part of his heart’s workload for much of that time.


After the procedure, Kimpel was all smiles.


“I feel great,” he said with a laugh. “The technology is amazing. They put this little turbocharger in my heart and I feel great!”


Kimpel will have close follow up care with his cardiology team at the medical center. A carefully designed diet and exercise plan awaits him back home in Iowa.


“I’ve always been in good shape and kind of a health food nut,” he said. “But I’ll have to be extra careful about salt, and about doing too much exercise.”


The Impella was approved by the FDA in June of 2008.

Dr. Ed O’Leary (right) places the Impella 2.5 into the left femoral artery
of angioplasty patient Chad Kimpel

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