The Impella Imperative

A new cardiac output technology can help physicians stabilize heart attack victims

When treating a person suffering from heart attack, physicians are not only racing against the clock but also racing uphill, with a number of potential challenges stacked against them. Blood pressure, heart rate, heart rhythms…any one of these aspects could deteriorate with each passing moment, forcing doctors to address these issues while simultaneously opening closed arteries. For physicians in The Heart Hospital at St. Joseph’s/Candler, this uphill slope can now be leveled with the help of the Impella, a left ventricular assist device that can quadruple the cardiac output of the devices used in the past.

“The Impella augments the cardiac output from the heart,” explains cardiologist William F. Wallace, MD. “It is inserted in a similar way to the standard heart catheters that we use every day. One end of the device rests in the heart’s left ventricle, which propels blood out through the other end of the device and into the aorta. So it is basically performing the heart’s role to a certain degree.”

The technology is placed percutaneously. This means that instead of using incisions to approach the heart, the physician inserts the device through a large artery, typically in the leg, and places it with the help of X-ray guidance.

“For heart attack patients who are in significant shock, we previously used an intra-aortic balloon pump,” Wallace says. “The pump could augment the cardiac output by about 0.6 liters per minute. With the Impella, it’s 2.5 liters, basically a four-fold increase in cardiac support.”

Along with treating sufferers of heart attacks, the Impella device can also be employed in high-risk angioplasty, a procedure in which narrow or obstructed arteries are widened. It is also occasionally used in the operating room for bypass patients with an already-reduced pumping function of their heart. But for Dr. Wallace, the most remarkable benefit of the Impella is how it levels the playing field.

“This technology has allowed us to stabilize the patient and create an even more controlled setting for my staff and I to work in,” Wallace says. “With the Impella assisting the heart’s pumping function, I can focus on what I really need to do—opening the blocked artery as quickly and as skillfully as I can.”
  • St. Joseph's Hospital Campus: 11705 Mercy Blvd., Savannah, GA 31419, (p) 912-819-4100
  • Candler Hospital Campus: 5353 Reynolds St., Savannah, GA 31405, (p) 912-819-6000
  • Find us on:

St.Joseph's Hospital Campus: 912-819-4100

Candler Hospital Campus: 912-819-6000