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UPMC Receives Joint Commission Approval to Provide Ventricular Assist Device Destination Therapy for Heart Failure Patients

No other hospital in the region can match UPMC’s clinical experience, patient volume and training dedicated to supporting patients with heart pumps

PITTSBURGH, September 24, 2008 — UPMC has received The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval™ for ventricular assist device (VAD) support for destination therapy, which is heart support for patients with end-stage heart disease who are not candidates for heart transplantation. Previously, VADs were primarily used as a bridge to heart transplant, but as clinical experience has demonstrated, they have become a viable treatment option for those patients with end-stage heart disease without compromising quality of life.

The Joint Commission is an independent, not-for-profit organization that accredits and certifies more than 15,000 health care organizations and programs in the United States. Joint Commission accreditation and certification is recognized nationwide as a symbol of quality that reflects an organization’s commitment to meeting certain performance standards. The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval is considered the highest achievement of quality and compliance.

“Ventricular assist devices now are recognized by the Centers for Medicaid Services as practical surgical treatments for patients with severe heart disease for programs approved by the Joint Commission,” says Robert Kormos, M.D., professor of surgery, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and director, UPMC Artificial Heart Program. “As the pumps continue to get smaller, that also translates to shorter hospital stays, shorter recovery time and better overall quality of life.”

Since the UPMC Artificial Heart Program was developed in 1985, more than 450 patients have been supported with some type of mechanical circulatory device, many of whom went on to receive heart transplants and are still alive today.

“This distinction is a testament to UPMC’s continuum of care for patients with end-stage heart disease along with cardiac transplantation,” says John Innocenti, president, UPMC Presbyterian-Shadyside. “It is an honor that our institution is considered to be among the very best in the field of ventricular assist device technology. It is our mission to deliver only the best care for those suffering from end-stage heart disease.”

Heart pumps are used in patients whose hearts are failing, but are not suitable candidates for heart transplantation, due to age or other serious medical conditions. They provide relief and support to the heart by reducing cardiac workload and allowing the heart to rest. In some instances, heart pumps can also be used as a “bridge to heart transplantation,” until a suitable organ can be found.

UPMC presently uses several different types of heart pumps and assist devices in patients, some of which University of Pittsburgh researchers co-collaborated on. Various devices in use today include the VentrAssist LVAD®; Thoratec’s Heartmate II, XVE, Bi-VAD and Centri-MAG®; the Berlin Heart Pediatric VAD®; and the Jarvik 2000 LVAD®. The size and condition of the patient generally determines which particular heart pump will be used. 

UPMC also has been instrumental in, and a leading recruiter of, patients enrolled in heart pump clinical studies, including a multi-center U.S. clinical trial to test the safety and feasibility of Heartmate II and the VentrAssist as destination therapy.

Most recently, UPMC is part of the Pediatric VAD Consortium, a team of investigators at the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University and Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC working to develop the world’s first Pediatric Ventricular Assist Device (PVAD), a novel mechanical circulatory support system for infants and very small children with congenital or acquired cardiac disease, allowing them to remain completely mobile while receiving the PVAD. If successful, the device would be the first one designed specifically to provide long-term cardiac support to these infants and toddlers, for whom no technology currently exists.

About UPMC

UPMC is an integrated global health enterprise headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and one of the leading nonprofit health systems in the United States. As western Pennsylvania’s largest employer, with 50,000 employees and $7 billion in revenue, UPMC is transforming the economy of the region into one based on medicine, research and technology. By integrating 20 hospitals, 400 doctors’ offices and outpatient sites, long-term care facilities and a major insurance plan, UPMC has advanced the quality and efficiency of health care and developed internationally renowned programs in transplantation, cancer, neurosurgery, psychiatry, orthopaedics and sports medicine, among others. UPMC is commercializing its medical and technological expertise by nurturing new companies, developing strategic business relationships with some of the world’s leading multinational corporations, and expanding into international markets, including Italy, Ireland, the United Kingdom and Qatar. For more information about UPMC, visit our website at

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