Artel Thorpe Sr. of Jackson, Tenn., recently became the first person in the United States to undergo a new, less invasive surgical technique for implanting a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) heart pump since it was granted Federal Drug Administration (FDA) approval on July 11. The surgery, performed at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, allowed Thorpe to avoid having his sternum cut open, instead receiving the implant through much smaller incisions in his upper chest and in the left side of his chest between his ribs.
The new approach to implanting the device via thoracotomy has been demonstrated to be safe and offers several proposed benefits when compared with implantation via sternotomy. These include reduced length of hospital stay, on average from 26 days down to 18 days, and improved health-related quality of life when compared to implanting it via sternotomy.
The surgery occurred on July 13, two days after the FDA approved the new approach for implanting a HeartWare HVAD, a left ventricular assist device manufactured by Medtronic. Matthew Danter, MD, assistant professor of Cardiac Surgery, was his surgeon.
"He was a very high-risk patient," Danter said. "He was requiring multiple drugs to keep his heart moving, and had no other options. He was quite ill at the time of the implant."
Although it was a newly FDA-approved procedure, Danter had actually done the surgery multiple times as part of the landmark HVAD LATERAL trial. VUMC was the largest enrolling center of the 26 medical centers in the United States and Canada involved in this clinical trial that led to FDA approval.
Danter said the benefits of the procedure extend to when these patients may eventually undergo heart transplant. "I think that if you can avoid completely opening the sternum fully prior to transplant, it makes the re-entry at the time of transplant less difficult.," said Danter. "And when you are the second-busiest heart transplant center in the nation, every little bit helps."