Iowa Heart Center Surgeons Implant Heart Pump Assist Device in Des Moines’ man with Advanced Congestive Heart Failure

August 20, 2014

 Des Moines, IA – August 20—The heart of a 68-year-old Des Moines’ man with advanced congestive heart failure (CHF) is now beating easier, thanks to leading-edge technology and close collaboration between University of Iowa Health Alliance members.

On June 24, Iowa Heart Center surgeons implanted the HeartMate® II left ventricular assist device (LVAD) into the heart of John Hilding during a procedure at Mercy Medical Center – Des Moines. The procedure was the first LVAD case in central Iowa, and it was made possible because of the relationship between the Iowa Heart Center, Mercy Medical Center – Des Moines, and University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics as part of the University of Iowa Health Alliance (UIHA).

The LVAD technology provides an additional local option for cardiac care. For people waiting for a heart transplant, the LVAD is a “bridge” until an organ is available. For a patient living with CHF who does not qualify for a transplant, such as Hilding, the LVAD is considered “destination therapy,” which is designed to improve quality of life.

“Being able to offer this lifesaving device to advanced heart failure patients in Central Iowa and across Iowa is a huge win for our state,” said William Wickemeyer, M.D., an Iowa Heart Center cardiologist specializing in advanced heart failure. “We can prolong and improve the quality of life of patients who have no other options or are waiting for a transplant.”

After a heart attack in 2004, Hilding was diagnosed with heart failure. Throughout the past decade, he continued seeing his cardiologist at Iowa Heart Center. Then in January 2014, when conventional therapies were no longer effective in treating his failing heart, Hilding was referred to see Advanced Heart Failure Specialist Dr. Christos Kassiotis, in the Advanced Heart Failure Clinic at Iowa Heart Center. After consultation and evaluation, Dr. Kassiotis knew Hilding needed more than medications, diet and exercise to improve his condition.

 “Physicians from the Iowa Heart Advanced Heart Failure Clinic at Mercy and from the Cardiomyopathy Program at the University of Iowa felt implant of an LVAD device as destination therapy was the best option for John as his symptoms were rapidly progressing and he was not eligible for transplant,” said Dr. Kassiotis.

LVAD technology is designed to help the weakened left ventricle of the heart do its job of pumping blood from the heart into the aorta and throughout the body. The LVAD takes additional stress off the already weakened heart muscle.

“The device is placed just below the diaphragm in the abdomen. It is attached to the left ventricle – the main pumping chamber of the heart, and the aorta – the main artery that carries oxygenated blood from the left ventricle to the entire body,” said Ganga Prabhakar, Iowa Heart Center cardiothoracic surgeon, who performed the first implant at Mercy. “It takes over and restores blood flow throughout the body, enabling the patient to breathe more easily and feel less fatigued.”

Like many procedures involving new technologies and surgical techniques, Iowa Heart surgeons had to be involved in several procedures and mentored by surgeons already familiar with the device. As a member of UIHA through Mercy Health Network, Drs. Prabhakar, Wickemeyer, and Kassiotis, along with advanced practice nurse Jolene Runkel, were able to receive training at UI Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City.

“This is a perfect example of the advantages of the University of Iowa Health Alliance,” said Frances L. Johnson, M.D., associate professor of medicine and director of Advanced Heart Failure Research & Education at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine. “By working together we were able to assist in his care throughout the entire process and to help make this advanced technology available right in Mr. Hilding’s community.”

UI Hospitals and Clinics is also Iowa’s heart transplant center. Use of the LVAD helps congestive heart failure patients who are waiting for transplant and could help keep more viable organs in the state.

“Since starting this collaboration two years ago, we have completed five heart transplants referred to us by the Iowa Heart Center and Mercy, and three other patients are actively listed or nearing activation on our waiting list,” said Anuradha K. Bhama, M.D., Surgical Director of Heart Transplantation & Mechanical Circulatory Support at UIHC Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery and Heart & Vascular Center. “We are looking forward to building on that success and through this partnership helping to make sure that this type of advanced technology is available to people throughout the state.”  

John has some significant goals he wants to accomplish – like seeing his six grandchildren graduate or get married. He wants to travel and enjoy time with his wife. He says he might want to work a few hours a week or return to volunteering by delivering meals to homebound individuals through the Meals on Wheels program. Because of the LVAD procedure, John has the opportunity to accomplish these goal and potentially more.  

“I thank the three amigos – Prab, Wick, and Kassiotis – for all they have done for me,” Hilding recently said at a follow-up appointment. “I pretty much do the same things I like to do, but only faster and better… boy I was pretty down. I’m enjoying spending time with my kids and grandkids.”

For more information on LVAD, contact the VAD Coordinator at (515) 633-3770.

About Iowa Heart Center

Iowa Heart Center, one of the nation’s premier cardiovascular medicine practices, is an integrated service of Mercy Medical Center—Des Moines. For more than 40 years, Iowa Heart Center physicians and staff have provided world-class heart care and disease prevention services to Iowans and their families. Iowa Heart is also involved in clinical research at the national and international level of emerging medical technologies.

About Mercy Medical Center – Des Moines

Mercy operates two hospital campuses, along with more than 20 additional facilities that house more than 50 primary care, pediatric, internal medicine and specialty clinics. Mercy Medical Center – Des Moines is an 802-bed acute care, not-for-profit Catholic hospital founded by the Sisters of Mercy in 1893. Mercy is the longest continually operating hospital in Des Moines and is also one of the largest employers in the state – with more than 6,900 employees and a medical staff of more than 1,000 physicians and allied health associates.  Mercy Medical Center–Des Moines is a member of Mercy Health Network and is a part of Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI), a national nonprofit health organization with headquarters in Englewood, Colo.  The faith-based system operates in 18 states and includes 93 hospitals and multiple other facilities and services.

About the University of Iowa Health Alliance

University of Iowa Health Alliance (UIHA) includes five of Iowa’s premier health care organizations, including 54 hospitals and more than 175 clinics. Mercy Health Network based in Des Moines, Genesis Health System based in Davenport and Mercy-Cedar Rapids, University of Iowa Health Care of Iowa City, and Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare-Iowa are members. Formed in June 2012, the organization’s mission is stated as: “The University of Iowa Health Alliance will enhance the quality of health and life for Iowans through innovations in care coordination, clinical integration and prevention that reduce cost and improve efficiency.” Alliance members share a vision of creating an organization that can be a national leader in transforming health care through innovations in clinical care, research and education; development of new, integrated models of care delivery and financing; and optimizing population health.  In doing this, the alliance strives to address the changing health care environment, ensuring patients throughout Iowa and its contiguous states receive the best possible care. For more information: 515-643-4000.

About Iowa Heart Center

Iowa Heart Center, founded in 1970, is one of the nation’s premier cardiovascular medicine practices. With clinics and offices in Des Moines, Ames, Ankeny, Carroll, Fort Dodge, Marshalltown, Newton, and Ottumwa, Iowa Heart Center’s physicians and staff are committed to providing world-class heart care, research and prevention services to Iowa families.