How can you put a big heart pump into a small person with a tiny heart? A new device tested in San Diego may offer the best option.
It's small enough to use on children, and developers say it should last longer than the bigger pumps now used by many heart patients. It's called the Debakey Ventricular Assist Device. It's just been approved for testing on humans in the U.S.
"What you have is a little turbine that rotates in the center," says Dr. Walter Dembitsy, thoracic surgeon. "It can assist the heart in a way that's more comfortable for the patient, and that it will last longer."
Dr. Dembitsky also says the new four ounce pump provides continuous blood flow for patients, so their diseased heart might be able to heal itself, or at least hang on until a human heart donor can be found for transplant.
Of course, the new pump isn't perfect. Because its turbine spins so fast, there's a possibility it might damage the patient's blood cells. And patients who get one will probably have to take blood thinning medications, which aren't needed with the bigger pumps.
But at least it offers more time to children or adults with small frames who previously were not good candidates for a heart pump.