HeartWare: Saving kids waiting for transplants
ST. LOUIS, Mo. – It doesn't look like much, but a day out and about is big for 11-year-old Jacque Fair. Last summer, Jacque and her mom found out she had heart failure and needed a transplant.
"It was a surprise," she said.
"I had to step out of the room to be honest with you. It was a little much to take," Katrina Fair, Jacque's mom, admitted.
While she waits for a transplant, Jacque wears the HeartWare device.
"They used to be bigger, bulkier, so only adults could receive them," said Mary Mehegan, RN, VAD Coordinator, St. Louis Children's Hospital.
The pump is implanted in the heart and attaches to a battery pack outside the body. It takes blood out of the left ventricle and pumps it into the aorta—helping the heart function when it's too weak to do so on its own.
The device is small enough to be used in kids and it is portable—so patients don't have to stay in the hospital.
"It's a beautiful thing to let a child go home while they're still in heart failure," Mehegan said.
Jacque says the device has given her freedom.
"If I didn't have this, I'd probably be in the hospital, not allowed to do anything and taped up to the wall," Jacque said.
She's looking forward to her transplant, but says she's happy she can still be a kid while she waits.
Patients have to be at least 65 pounds to receive the device. The HeartWare is a left ventricular assist device, commonly called an LVAD. It's been used in adults for years, but only recently in children.
In order for a child to grow and develop, the heart needs to maintain normal pump function to provide optimal blood flow throughout the body. However, sometimes the heart of a child may not function normally. Heart failure occurs in adults because of the effects of smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, coronary artery disease, and bad heart valves. It can occur in newborns, infants, toddlers, and teenagers for other reasons. (Source: www.heart.org)
CAUSES: There are two primary causes for heart failure.
HEARTWARE: Adults with heart failure have the option to use an internal ventricular assist device to bridge their heart for a transplant. Now, kids are receiving that option too. "Application of this technology in children may eventually allow physicians to ‘defer' a decision on transplantation and give a child's native heart a better chance for recovery," Dr. Canter, director of the heart transplant program at St. Louis Children's Hospital, was quoted as saying. "It also allows patients with end-stage heart failure who are not heart transplant candidates to have effective therapy." It is believed that fewer than ten children's hospitals in the nation have used implantable ventricular assist devices. HeartWare is a disk-like device that is sewn into the heart's left ventricle that pumps blood when the heart is too weak to do so on its own. It is connected by a lead through the abdominal wall to a controller and battery pack that fit into a small handbag and weighs less than four pounds, making it possible for a child to be discharged from the hospital. (Source: http://www.prweb.com/releases/2013/10/prweb11173922.htm)
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