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Phoenix hospital to use pencil-sized heart pump for patients in surgery

(Flickr/Phalinn Ooi)

PHOENIX — A hospital in Phoenix has introduced a device that could make surgery safer for patients with severe cardiac disease.

The Abrazo Arizona Heart Hospital in Phoenix has begun using the Impella pump — a device no wider than a pencil — to pump blood for during surgical procedures for patients who were deemed too high-risk for open heart surgery.

It has been used to treat more than 100 patients since 2014.

Dr. Timothy Byrne, the market director for interventional cardiology with Abrazo, said the device is useful for elderly patients or people who have anatomic issues with their heart.

“For them, the traditional angioplasty treatment that cardiologists would perform to open a blocked artery may be too risky and they may not be a good candidate for open-heart surgery,” Bryne said.

Bryne said another procedure that the pump could be used for is stenting, when a mesh tube is placed in a person’s artery if it is too narrow or weak. Narrow arteries may be due to many factors, including plaque buildup.

The pump could also help with a condition called cardiogenic shock, which occurs when a person cannot maintain his or her blood pressure after a heart attack, according to Byrne.

“The Impella system … supports the patient’s heart during surgery and allows the injured heart to recover,” he said.

(Video: Abiomed)

Dr. Akil Loki, an interventional cardiologist at Abrazo, said the pump is inserted through a groin incision and guided through the abdominal aorta into the heart’s left ventricle.

Then it is turned on to maintain blood flow to the brain, kidneys and other vital organs while surgeons address the patient’s cardiac blockages.

“You can work at peace, knowing that the profusion of the vital organs is going on while you’re working inside this very high-risk area,” Loki said.

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