Features September 2008 Issue

TandemHeart Assists When Surgery is Risky

By temporarily taking over heart function, this small external device buys time and saves lives before and during surgery.

Heart failure patients often need surgery to surviveóbut the fact that theyíre at high risk makes them especially vulnerable to complications. In such cases, a newer type of ventricular assist device (VAD) called TandemHeart can be lifesaving, says Eric Roselli, MD, a staff surgeon in Cleveland Clinicís Department of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery. Like other VADs, which were designed to keep patients alive while they wait for a heart transplant, the TandemHeart takes over the heartís pumping function, allowing the weakened muscle to rest. However, while traditional VADs are surgically implanted in the abdomen, a percutaneous VAD (pVAD) such as TandemHeart is introduced into the circulatory system without invasive surgery (see illustration). "TandemHeart can get patients to some level of recovery, so they can better tolerate a more invasive procedure," says Dr. Roselli. "Its small size and ease of placement make it ideal for patients whose heart failure has progressed rapidly."

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