Currently available mechanical circulatory support devices provide assistance to patients awaiting donor hearts, patients in need of temporary support while their damaged hearts heal, and patients in need of permanent or ongoing support. McGowan Institute affiliated scientists and clinicians have been at the forefront of the technology development and clinical advancements in this area.
The UPMC Artificial Heart Program has done over 1,100 mechanical circulatory support implants. With the current technology, many patients with end-stage heart failure can return to their homes, rather than to intensive care, to await a donor heart.
The McGowan Institute was instrumental in the development of the Thoratec Heartmate II (pictured), which has been used in over 20,000 cases worldwide.
At the McGowan Institute, researchers are developing and evaluating ever more advanced heart assist devices; one of the current focus areas is on circulatory support devices for infants and toddlers.
While ventricular assist devices (VADs) are primarily used as a "bridge to transplant" for patients who can no longer be managed medically, McGowan Institute affiliated clinicians and researchers have demonstrated that the devices can be used as a bridge to recovery as well — making heart transplantation unnecessary in select cases. The Artificial Heart Program team has successfully weaned patients with certain kinds of heart disease off VADs. Weaning requires a level of scrutiny that only this team can provide: UPMC clinicians and industry partners developed new ways to assess the heart itself to see how well it performs when the VAD is slowed or temporarily halted.
When a patient is not a candidate for heart transplant, the use of VAD destination therapy can help provide long-term support. This modality is rapidly gaining in popularity due to advances in the technology, as well as new indications for use. Early intervention with destination therapy decreases risk for complications and morbidity. The goals of the REVIVE-IT (Randomized Evaluation of VAD Intervention before Inotropic Therapy) clinical trial will be improved rate of survival, increased quality of life, and greater functional capacity.
To address the critical need for pediatric artificial hearts, the McGowan Institute is pursuing a number of initiatives to develop a heart support system that provides assistance either as a bridge to transplant or to recovery for infants and toddlers. The target population is children from birth to 2 years.
Since its founding in 1985, the UPMC Clinical Artificial Heart Program has become one of the most active mechanical circulatory assist centers in the United States. An experienced team of cardiac surgeons, cardiologists, clinical nurses, and bioengineers selects and manages patients for this ever-evolving program. In all, the program team is one of the most experienced of such teams in the world. Learn more about the UPMC Clinical Artificial Heart Program.