Heart disease poses threat to new moms

On rare occasions, pregnancy can lead to peripartum cardiomyopathy

161029561On rare occasions pregnancy can lead to peripartum cardiomyopathy, a type of pregnancy-related heart failure once called postpartum cardiomyopathy. Women can develop the condition in the last month of pregnancy or within five months of delivering a baby.

For these women, this type of heart failure can be temporary, or can progress to severe, life-threatening heart failure that requires a heart device to support their weakened heart muscle.

While peripartum cardiomyopathy is rare (occurring in 1 of every 2,500 to 4,000 pregnancies which translates to about 1,000 to 1,300 cases in the U.S. each year), some women are at higher risk than others. It is more common among women who are older, African American, carrying multiples, or who have high blood pressure or preeclampsia.

The cause of peripartum cardiomyopathy is not well understood, but active research is underway to learn more. Early diagnosis improves women’s outlook for recovery. Continue reading

When is the right time for a heart pump?

REVIVE-IT heart failure study examines earlier LVAD use

Keith Aaronson, M.D., Francis Pagani, M.D., Ph.D., and Todd Koelling, M.D., lead study examining earlier lvad use.

Keith Aaronson, M.D., Francis Pagani, M.D., Ph.D., and Todd Koelling, M.D., treat advanced heart failure patients.

There are over 6 million people with heart failure in the United States. Other than delivering a baby, it’s the leading reason for an adult to be hospitalized in the United States. And for those age 65 and over, it’s the main reason to be hospitalized.

Some patients with very advanced heart failure won’t survive without a heart transplant or other options such as a left ventricular assist device (LVAD). 

The question is what to do with patients who have advanced heart failure that impairs their daily life, such as getting out of breath walking a block or up a flight of stairs, but are not quite as bad as patients who are now eligible for transplant or put on a permanent LVAD heart pump.

The REVIVE-IT clinical trial will test the theory that patients like these will live longer and better with earlier implantation of a left ventricular assist device rather than treating them with medicine alone and waiting for very advanced stages of heart failure to develop.


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Meet the longest living HeartMate II LVAD recipient

David Pierce shares his journey

Judy and David Pierce enjoy the company of their granddaughters.

Judy and David Pierce enjoy the company of their granddaughters.

Over the last 10 years, left ventricular assist devices (LVADs) have proved to be a viable alternative to heart transplants. The procedure gives patients a chance to experience a better overall quality of life, especially those who are not candidates for heart transplant.

The University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center is home to one of the world’s largest and most experienced LVAD programs. In fact, U-M’s LVAD program has successfully implanted more than 580 long-term devices in patients.

One man’s journey with the HeartMate II LVAD

One of those is David Pierce, who has the distinguished recognition as being the longest living HeartMate II LVAD patient in the U.S. David received his first LVAD on May 26, 2004, at the age of 52. Today, he is living a happy, healthy life — and spending precious time with his family.

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U-M Heart Walk team spreads important heart health message

The Heartthrobs walk to ensure women are vigilant about heart disease

One American dies from a coronary event every minute, and someone is stricken by such an event every 34 seconds. Similarly, one person in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds and someone dies from stroke every four minutes.

The University of Michigan Health System is making great strides in the treatment and prevention of cardiovascular disease through top-notch clinical and research capabilities. The American Heart Association supports these efforts and funds many cardiovascular research studies within U-M. In return, U-M is a major supporter of the AHA’s 2014 Washtenaw County Heart Walk/5K Run, which raises money for cardiovascular education and research.

Heart failure gives a personal perspective

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U-M top walker Deidre Todd will lead the Heartthrobs team in the 2014 Heart Walk.

When hundreds of U-M employees gather on the campus of Eastern Michigan University on May 10, they’ll be there with a common goal: to help raise funds for the fight against heart disease and stroke.

One of those teams — the Heartthrobs — will be led by Deidre Todd, a 25-year University of Michigan Health System employee and heart disease survivor. Deidre, a clinical safety coordinator in the Office of Clinical Safety, has been a top walker in past AHA Heart Walks, but her commitment to helping raise funds for heart disease and stroke research and education now stems from a personal perspective. It is driven by her desire to encourage women to be vigilant about their heart health.

Delayed diagnosis

Deidre’s health challenges began after the birth of her child, Alex, in 2009, at age 43. “I thought my exhaustion and fatigue were the result of being an older mom,” she says. A few months after her son’s birth, she developed a condition that was diagnosed as bronchitis, but she continued to feel weak and run-down for months. Deidre’s fatigue and nausea continued to worsen until the point one night in early 2010 when she drove herself to the emergency room of her local hospital. After extensive testing, Deidre was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy. Continue reading

Heart transplants: The ultimate gift of life

David Parker inspires others in the fight for their life

Since 1984, The University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center Heart Transplant Program has performed more than 900 heart transplants, as well as implanting more than 500 ventricular assist devices (VADs) — most as a way to “bridge” patients to transplant. The U-M team also provides the multidisciplinary care required for complex transplant patients and includes specialists in advanced circulatory support, cardiac critical care, nutrition and social work.

This closely integrated team of cardiac transplant surgeons and transplant cardiologists is highly skilled in treating and implanting donor hearts in patients with the most urgent cardiac needs. U-M’s high volume, vast experience and active research program makes it a leader in heart transplant surgeries.

U-M patient David Parker received a new heart in December 2012. Today, he is living a full, active life that includes walking three miles, weight training and swimming most days of the week.

David shares his story of courage and his path back to living …

David Parker and his wife, Carol

David Parker and his wife, Carol

“My name is David Parker. I am 64 years old and thankful to the University of Michigan cardiac team for my new life. I first became ill in 2001. I started with an irregular heartbeat called atrial fibrillation, or afib. I was in and out of the hospital getting ‘cardioverted,’ a procedure in which the heart is shocked back into normal sinus rhythm. After a while, the doctors saw that this was not going to work. So I went to the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center, where Dr. Hakan Oral and his team performed three ablations. This helped for a period of time, but the afib eventually returned.

I was getting weaker and weaker as time passed. My doctors decided the only thing that would work was a heart transplant. I was put into the hospital to try to build up my strength and was put on the heart transplant list. At this time, my organs were starting to shut down and I was told I was too sick for a heart transplant. My only other option was to have a left ventricle assist device (LVAD) inserted. An LVAD is an electrical pump that attaches to the heart and pumps blood throughout the body. With the LVAD surgery, performed by Dr. Jonathan Haft, my organs started improving. I had the LVAD for 11 months, running on batteries during the day and plugged into a wall outlet at night. During that time, I was put back on the heart transplant list. Continue reading

U-M LVAD program offers new hope for patients

Jerome Wilson shares his story

The University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center is home to one of the worlds largest and most experienced left ventricular assist device (LVAD) programs. In fact, U-M’s LVAD program has successfully implanted more than 580 long-term devices. The program is one of only a few worldwide with access to many investigational and FDA-approved LVADs.

Jerome Wilson meets with Dr. Todd Koelling.

Jerome Wilson meets with Dr. Todd Koelling.

For most LVAD patients, the procedure provides an opportunity to return to normalcy and to enjoy a better overall quality of life. One such patient is Jerome Wilson, whose heart failure journey began 20 years ago when he found himself unable to walk up a flight of stairs without feeling tired. He was referred to the Frankel Cardiovascular Center a few years ago, where he met Todd Koelling, M.D., a cardiologist who is also the medical director of the Heart Failure and Heart Transplantation Management Program. Dr. Koelling co-manages Jerome’s care with his primary care physician in Lansing. Together they had prescribed medications and a defibrillator to help treat Jerome’s heart failure.

Early last year, Jerome’s condition had deteriorated to the point where a left ventricular assist device might be his best option for improving not only his quality of life, but also his chances for survival. Last May, Francis D. Pagani, M.D., Ph.D., a cardiac surgeon and director of the Center for Circulatory Support, implanted Jerome’s LVAD and he returned home just 13 days after his procedure. Continue reading