FAQ: What Is the Impella Device? How Is It Saving Lives Of Heart Patients?

A small pump, the Impella device is revolutionising how heart diseases are treated. What should you know about it?

3 min read
FAQ: What Is the Impella Device? How Is It Saving Lives Of Heart Patients?
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A tiny pump – an Impella device – can save the lives of patients struggling with heart diseases, and does not show any mortality concerns, the United States Food and Drugs Administration has said in its post-approval study recently.

Experts say that the device can revolutionise how heart diseases are treated, and it has recently been used in multiple hospitals in India.

Last month, the life of a 68-year-old Mumbai man, who suffered three cardiac arrests, was saved with the Impella device. In July this year, in Chandigarh's PGI’s Advanced Cardiac Centre, it was used in a 90-year-old on whom performing open heart surgery would have been too risky.

What exactly is an Impella device? How does it work? FIT tells you.


What is the Impella device?

A Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD), the Impella Ventricular Support System is a small device that pumps blood into the body of patients who might require it for short-term support.

This means that the device pumps enough blood into the patient’s body to keep it going until extensive medical help is provided.

The Impella is actually a small pump “inside of a catheter with an electric motor.” It can pump about 2.5 to 5 litres of blood per minute and is implanted in the patient’s heart on the left side, through an incision.

Dr R Anantharaman, Senior Consultant Cardiologist at Chennai's Kauvery Hospital, says that the Impella is a supportive device that can help patients who've suffered a major heart attack or whose blood vessels are blocked.

How does it work?

The Impella pulls blood out of the heart and into the aorta. It bypasses the left ventricle, which is traditionally responsible for pumping blood throughout the body.

It is only when the left ventricle stops functioning, that an Impella is used to restore oxygenation in the body, and help the left ventricle recover. 

An Impella device’s support can last for up to seven days, while giving the patient enough time to seek the medical help they require.

Not just that, according to Dr Nikhil Parchure, Consultant, Interventional Cardiology, Apollo Hospitals, Navi Mumbai:

"Impella devices support the oxygenation of the body during complex surgeries. One end of the device is in the main pumping chamber and the other in aorta. It is a catheter based system which is used like an angiogram. It supports the body by maintaining the flow of the oxygenated blood throughout and the doctor can perform complex procedures on the arteries easily."

Can Impella devices be used in all heart attack patients?

Impella devices have frequently been used in people who’ve suffered a severe heart failure or a cardiogenic shock. These are all conditions in which the heart is unable to pump oxygenated blood to the rest of the body, which can be fatal. 

Are there any drawbacks to using this device?

According to cardiologists at the Washington University School of Medicine, the drawbacks of using an Impella might include kidney issues, excessive bleeding, stroke, or even deaths in patients who "undergo stent procedures."

“The FDA believes that when the device is used for the currently approved indication in appropriately selected patients the benefits of the Impella RP System continue to outweigh the risks,” the FDA had said, in a statement.

How much do Impella devices cost?

In India, impella devices can cost around Rs 20 lakh or more. The high cost of these devices is the reason that they have been used sparingly, in only about 2.5 lakh patients globally.

Impella devices are available in very few hospitals throughout India, with a significant number of these hospitals being in the southern states.

(With inputs from Medical Device Network and San Antonio Regional Hospital)

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Topics:  Heart Attacks 

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