Heart patients fitted with a new design of a heart pump are causing worry among dentists and other health care providers when no pulse or blood pressure can be found on the patients.

Not to worry. The HeartMate II, a pump the size of a C battery, operates like a propeller, pumping blood on an even flow, so there is no pulse or blood pressure from the patient's heart.

University Hospital was one of 38 medical centers around the country taking part in a clinical study of the new heart pump, with the study showing patients fitted with the HeartMate II had a much higher rate of survival than patients using an older, larger model.

The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, according to a news release from UW Health.

The device was implanted in patients with severe heart failure, patients who most likely had less than a year to live.

The study showed that after two years, 47 percent of the 134 patients with the HeartMate II implant met the goal of not having a stroke or a device failure, while only 11 percent of the 66 patients with the older, larger HeartMate XVE device met similar goals.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the HeartMate II as a "destination" treatment, opening the door for thousands more heart failure patients to get the device, mainly because of its compact size and method of operation.

"Since the HeartMate II is much smaller, we can use it in smaller patients such as younger patients or female patients," Dr. Takushi Kohmoto, a UW Health cardiothoracic surgeon who participated in the national trial, said in a news release.

The FDA decision means a broader group of heart patients, including those who don't qualify for heart transplants due to age or underlying medical conditions, can use the HeartMate II to improve and lengthen their lives.

"All of the pumps on the market give patients a major improvement in quality of life," said cardiologist and heart failure expert Dr. Nancy Sweitzer. "But this one is much easier to live with."


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