Called the Impella 5.0, the device is a minimally invasive catheter pump that can support the heart with up to five liters of blood per minute.
The pump is implanted percutaneously through an incision in the groin. From there, a cardiac surgeon and interventional cardiologist team to advance the device through the patient’s femoral artery until the device sits across the aortic valve, with one end in the left ventricle and the other in the aorta. The pump draws blood from the left ventricle and pumps it into the aorta and the rest of the body.
The device is designed to help a patient’s weakened heart gain strength before a more invasive surgery that otherwise wouldn’t be immediately possible due to the patient’s current condition.
“The Impella allows us to give patients immediate help who otherwise would not be able to survive a major surgery,” says I-wen Wang, MD, PhD, cardiac surgeon at Barnes-Jewish and Washington University School of Medicine. “A year or two years ago, without devices like this, these types of patients would have died.”
Dr. Wang and Washington University interventional cardiologist Alan Zajarias, MD, implanted an Impella for the first time in St. Louis in a 50 year-old man in severe heart failure. After a period of eight days, the patient gained enough strength to go to the operating room to receive a left ventricular assist device to assist his failing heart until a donor heart comes available through organ donation.