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Circulatory Support Devices in Action

By Transonic Staff30 Aug 2023


Circulatory support devices are a beacon of hope for those living with cardiovascular disease and for the medical professionals who care for them.

Millions of people around the world face compromised heart function. Tiny babies, born with heart defects. Children with myocarditis (inflammation of the heart) after a viral infection or a genetic heart condition. Adults who have experienced a stroke or heart attack, or who are living with coronary artery disease.

The list of reasons why a patient of any age might need a circulatory support device is long. In each case, the impact of cutting-edge technology can be life-changing.

Here are some real-life patient stories of circulatory support devices in action.

Recap: Types of Circulatory Support Devices

The most appropriate circulatory support device for each patient depends on their individual medical situation.

Some patients’ hearts need help pumping blood throughout the body. This help can be provided by a ventricular assist device (VAD). Others require complete replacement of the heart’s pumping action, and so use a total artificial heart (TAH). For the most critically ill patients, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) can provide not only cardiac support, but respiratory as well.

The Tiniest Patient With a VAD

VADs are mechanical pumps that support heart function and blood flow. They can be used to assist the left ventricle, the right ventricle, or both. These devices have saved countless lives, including that of an infant, James Baker.

Baby James’ miraculous treatment was handled by The Ventricular Assist Device Program at Cincinnati Children's Hospital, where he was featured on the patient stories page. At just five pounds, the tiny fighter is thought to be the smallest child to receive a VAD and make it to transplant.

As Cincinnati Children's Hospital explains in a short documentary about James, he was born with severe heart problems, including a missing coronary artery. He needed a heart transplant.

Just a couple of days after he was born, and before a donor heart became available, James began struggling. Soon, he was having heart attacks.

Surgeons put him on a VAD, allowing him time to grow and get stronger while he waited for a new heart – which he received a couple of months later.

New Heart and New Hope with TAH

The wait time for a heart transplant can range from a few days to several years, depending on the patient’s circumstances and available donor hearts.  

Some patients living with heart disease are too sick to wait until a transplant is available. That was the case for Vaness French, a patient at the Stanford Health Care Heart Failure and Cardiomyopathy Clinic.

As Stanford Health Care shared in a short video, Vaness had lived with heart disease for nearly his entire life. While waiting for a suitable donor heart, he went into cardiac arrest at a baseball game with friends. With no more time to wait, his cardiac care team decided to move forward with a total artificial heart.

The device, which replaces the heart’s ventricles and valves, acts as a bridge to heart transplant. For Vaness and many others, it’s a lifeline to hope and health.

Vaness later underwent a successful natural-heart transplant surgery.

ECMO Saving Lives, Day In and Day Out

ECMO, a system that pumps the patient’s blood and oxygenates it outside the body, has saved countless lives over the decades.

The Extracorporeal Life Support Organization (ELSO), founded by the father of ECMO, Dr. Robert H. Bartlett, is the world’s largest registry for ECMO cases. The nonprofit provides support for ECMO clinicians, and highlights patient stories, like that of Brianna.

Brianna was 16-years-old when she was diagnosed with mononucleosis, a relatively common infection among teenagers and young adults. She shared her story, explaining that complications from mono eventually led to acute respiratory distress syndrome. Unable to breathe on her own, she was placed on ECMO.

She went into cardiac arrest more than once and spent months on ECMO.

After her recovery, Brianna wanted to know more about the device that saved her life. She learned about ECMO and the work of nurses, perfusionists and respiratory therapists who support ECMO patients. She knew she had found her calling and applied to a respiratory care program to help others like herself.

The Difference Circulatory Support Device Technology Makes

These examples are just a few of many that tell a broader narrative of hope, resilience and progress from patients and medical professionals alike. Circulatory support devices, and the continued innovations that push their technology and utility forward, are changing lives every day.

At Transonic, we are proud to play a part in this story by providing care teams with critical blood flow information that makes a difference for patients using circulatory support devices. 

This is Part 2 of a series on Mechanical Circulatory Support Devices. Click here for Part 1: Mechanical Circulatory Support Devices That Make a Difference.

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