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More than 5 million Americans are afflicted with congestive heart failure. Of these, 70,000 will have advanced heart failure that cannot be treated with conventional therapies. For these patients, the one-year survival rate is less than 50 percent and is associated with an extremely poor quality of life. Heart transplantation represents a wonderful option for those who qualify, but only 2,300 donor organs are available each year. Mechanical circulatory support (MCS) includes a variety of pumps or devices that are capable of supporting circulation until a donor heart becomes available. MCS can also be used as permanent therapy.
The HeartMate II® left ventricular assist device (LVAD) represents a breakthrough in MCS and has been implanted in more than 7,000 individuals worldwide. Very compact and extremely simple in design, it is capable of pumping up to 10 liters of blood per minute. It is silent and runs on two batteries that fit in a holster, allowing complete portability. The one-year survival rate approaches 85 percent, with few complications and device failures. More importantly, the majority of patients return to a near-normal lifestyle with outstanding quality of life within several months after the implant. They can hike and travel, and many return to work quickly. The HeartMate II is extremely durable, with an estimated lifespan of six to eight years, making it an ideal solution for many patients with end-stage heart failure who have no other options. This device, more than any other technology in the past decade, has revolutionized the field of advanced heart failure and truly represents a modern miracle of medicine.