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Pumps Someday May Allow Patients to Recover Their Own Hearts

An injured athlete can rest on the couch to recover before returning to sports, but an injured heart doesn’t have the same luxury – at least not yet. //

One Ohio State University Medical Center surgeon predicts that within 10 years, mechanical support devices for the heart will be put to use temporarily to allow a damaged heart to rest and recover itself. Right now, such heart pumps, known commonly as ventricular assist devices, or VADs, are typically used as bridges to transplant and in some cases as long-term therapies for chronically ill patients.

“I see this as a huge potential therapy for many heart failure patients who will have the opportunity 10 years from now to recover their own hearts,” says Dr. Benjamin Sun, chief of cardiothoracic surgery at Ohio State’s Medical Center and director of cardiac transplantation and mechanical support.

Why is he so confident? Because he and other physicians have seen the kind of heart healing a VAD can provide. Functioning essentially as surrogate pumps for the heart, the devices have been used for years to help patients who are poor candidates for transplantation regain enough physical and nutritional health to make them strong and successful transplant recipients.

These early patients’ experiences demonstrated that for some, the pumps could be better therapy than a transplant, Sun said. “This became the jumping-off point for patients who were not good candidates for transplantation. Some people now can go home with these pumps for years and live a very good quality of life. And they can be walking around in public without anyone knowing they have a pump.”

Ohio State’s Medical Center has one of the largest and most successful cardiac mechanical support programs in the country, managing patients with 10 different types of mechanical support devices (including a total artificial heart), and slated to participate in a worldwide study of a new, apricot-sized investig
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