Tiny heart pump helps man return to his large farm

Lee Slusher is again raising corn, wheat and soybeans on his 2,000-acre farm thanks, in part, to the use of the world’s smallest heart pump by Vishal Gupta, MD, MPH, Borgess Cardiology Group, Borgess Heart Institute. It was the first use of Abiomed’s Impella® heart pump in Southwest Michigan.

“The tiny device can help patients with severe heart conditions more safely receive life-saving interventions like balloon angioplasty and stent placement to open obstructed heart arteries,” said Dr. Gupta. “The pump is temporarily placed into the heart and assists the body by circulating 2.5 liters of blood per minute through the heart.”

Lee Slusher, 68, suffered irreparable damage to his heart following a heart attack in 1986. He underwent numerous treatments over the past 23 years. Heart bypass surgery was considered in 2007, but it was felt that the procedure would be too difficult for his weakened heart.

Mr. Slusher was recently diagnosed with atrial fibrillation where the heart’s two small upper chambers quiver instead of beating effectively. To correct the heart rhythm disorder, cardiologist Victor Owusu, MD, Hillsdale Cardiology, advised placement of a pacemaker/defibrillator.

Mr. Slusher was transferred to the Borgess Heart Institute for treatment. In addition to the pacemaker/defibrillator, Dr. Gupta suggested clearing the known obstructions in Mr. Slusher’s heart with balloon angioplasty. Using the new tiny heart pump would increase the safety of the procedure.

“Mr. Slusher’s heart was operating at just 15 to 20 percent of normal capacity,” Dr. Gupta said. “Opening up the blocked arteries would help Mr. Slusher, but his damaged heart needed circulatory help from the new pump while we performed the treatment in the Borgess Heart Institute Cardiovascular Lab.”

Just a few weeks later, Lee Slusher was again working on his farm near Reading, Michigan, an occupation he has enjoyed for 52 years.

“I now have twice the energy,” Lee Slusher said.

“Like other new treatment techniques, medications and medical devices we offer at the Borgess Heart Institute, this heart pump increases treatment choices for patients suffering from heart disease, the number one killer of Americans,” said Dr. Gupta.

The Impella® heart pump is housed within thin, flexible tubing, about the diameter of an average straw. Before a cardiovascular lab procedure, the pump is carefully inserted (via the femoral artery, a large artery in the leg) into the heart’s left ventricle. Up to 2.5 liters of blood per minute are delivered by the pump from the left ventricle into the ascending aorta, providing the heart with active support.

The tiny heart pump will chiefly be used to assist an ailing heart during cardiac interventional procedures. The pump can help ensure that patients remain stable during the procedures. The heart pump helps the heart by: assisting with ejecting blood out of the left ventricle; reducing workload of the heart muscle; propelling more blood to organs and tissues; and pumping blood more quickly to distant locations in the body.

The Borgess Heart Institute is one of the largest providers of cardiac care in the Midwest. Doctors and specialists of the Borgess Heart Institute and the Borgess Research Institute have created new treatment options for patients worldwide. In addition to cardiovascular research, the Borgess Heart Institute program includes: cardiac rehabilitation, cardiac surgery, cardiology, enhanced external counter pulsation, pulmonary rehabilitation and a women’s heart program.

Borgess Health offers a complete continuum of health care services…from state-of-the-art heart or brain surgery to wellness classes, rehabilitation services, home treatment options, and nursing home care. Borgess Health is a member of Ascension Health, the nation’s largest Catholic and largest nonprofit health system.

Borgess Medical Center (BMC) is a 424-bed teaching hospital linked with the Michigan State University Kalamazoo Center for Medical Studies. BMC offers regional specialty treatment of the heart, brain and spine, vascular disorders and orthopedic care.