August 22, 2013

Heart Institute hits ventricular assist device milestone

Cardiac surgeons recently performed Vanderbilt Heart and Vascular Institute’s 100th ventricular assist device (VAD) implant.

Vanderbilt Heart and Vascular Institute recently performed its 100th ventricular assist device (VAD) implant. Members of the VAD team include (back row, from left) Simon Maltais, M.D., Ph.D., Casey West, ANP, Shameka Dowell, Kelly Schlendorf, M.D., Alaina Knight, R.N., (front row, from left) Mary Keebler, M.D., Lenys Biga, MBA, Jennifer Dawson, BSMC, and Casey Miller, ANP. Members not pictured include Tom DiSalvo, M.D., Mark Wigger, M.D., Rashid Ahmad, M.D., Peggy Best, LCSW, and Madeleine Hallum, R.D., LDN. (photo by Susan Urmy)

Cardiac surgeons recently performed Vanderbilt Heart and Vascular Institute’s 100th ventricular assist device (VAD) implant.

A ventricular assist device is an implantable, mechanical support system that pumps blood throughout the body when a patient’s heart is too sick to do it, primarily in the case of advanced heart failure.

On July 30, William Whitwell, 62, of Ethridge, Tenn., became the 100th patient to receive a VAD at Vanderbilt.

Vanderbilt Heart’s VAD program offers a full spectrum of devices, including those designed as a “bridge” to transplantation and as destination therapy.

In January, Vanderbilt Heart became the first heart program in Tennessee to implant the HeartWare ventricular assist system as a bridge to transplantation. The miniature circulatory support device gained FDA approval in November 2012 for this purpose.

Vanderbilt also offers VADs that support the work of the heart permanently. In May 2012 it received certification from the Joint Commission to offer “destination therapy,” which uses a VAD to restore a heart failure patient to good health without transplantation.

Vanderbilt Heart has performed 56 VAD implants so far this year. Simon Maltais, M.D., Ph.D., surgical director for the Heart Transplantation and Ventricular Assist Device programs, expects to perform a total of 80 VAD implants by the end of the year, compared to two in 2009, one in 2010, nine in 2011 and 33 in 2012.

“The growth that we have had at VHVI puts our VAD program among the Top 10 in the country,” he said.

As the VAD program has grown, so too has the heart transplant volume. From July 2012 to June 2013 Vanderbilt Heart performed 39 heart transplants.

Vanderbilt Transplant Center Director Seth Karp, M.D., attributes the ongoing success of the program to the dedication and clinical excellence of cardiac surgeons, cardiologists and nurses who collaborate to provide both medical and surgical care for patients with complex cardiac illness.

“The outstanding experience of the team combined with strong institutional support and innovative approaches allow us to continue to provide the absolute highest quality of care to our patients,” said Karp.

On Aug. 9-10, Vanderbilt hosted its first Advanced Heart Failure Summit focused on VADs and heart transplantation with more than 120 attendees. The summit featured guest speakers from the major cardiac surgery programs in the country including Duke Clinical Research Institute, University of Michigan and Mayo Clinic.

“This first event was a great success, and has allowed Vanderbilt to position itself on the national scene,” Maltais said.