Joe Ann Bivins, 68, of Detroit, has been supported for the longest reported period of time on a single heart assist device, the HeartMate II Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD), developed and manufactured by Thoratec. The device supplements her heart's pumping function and allows her to live her life virtually free from the symptoms of heart failure.
Bivins was implanted with the device in July 2005 at the university early in the HeartMate II pivotal clinical trial. Now at nearly eight years of support, she exemplifies the life-improving benefits of LVAD therapy for heart failure, medical representatives said.
According to the American Heart Association, there are approximately 5.8 million individuals living with chronic heart failure in the U.S., many of whom may face a similar decision to the one made by Bivins almost eight years ago. Her heart had become too weak to adequately pump blood, leaving her tired and weak.
Dr. Francis D. Pagani, surgical director of the Adult Heart Transplant Program and Director of the Center for Circulatory Support at the Ann Arbor, Mich. hospital, told Bivins that her condition could improve with the help of an LVAD, the HeartMate II. She elected to have the surgery, and she now describes her life as being as close to normal as she could imagine. She sings with her church choir, attends bible study, heads the church usher board, and stays active and social with her sisters and son by her side.
Thoratec said its HeartMate II helps the left side of the heart to circulate blood to the rest of the body. It is implanted alongside the heart and supplements the heart's pumping function. The system also includes accessories that are worn outside the body, including a controller and batteries that last more than 10 hours, allowing patients to be active.
To date, over 13,000 patients have been implanted with HeartMate II, including approximately 6,000 currently on support, according to Thoratec.