Improving the heart - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Improving the heart

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Madison (WKOW) -- from Medstar:  Heart pump technology is constantly improving.

  One of the most promising and durable devices uses levitation technology.

  After four heart attacks, Tony Shannon's health was quickly failing.

  He said, "I couldn't walk from here to the bathroom without being helped and that. And when I got in there, Dr. Pagani and a couple of other doctors asked me, he says, 'yeah, you're gonna' have to have something done.'"

  That 'something' turned out to be an experimental pump called the Duraheart.

  Tony's the first in the U.S. to get the device.

  And University of Michigan heart surgeon Francis Pagani is the first in the U.S. to test it in patients.

  Doctor Pagani said, "these patients have very end stage heart disease, where there's no other alternative except for heart transplantation or the utilization of these pumps."

  Duraheart works with magnets and levitation technology to minimize damage to blood cells.

  "We're hoping that these types of devices that are magnetically levitated have less, less propensity for clotting," said Pagani.

  The pump could also last longer.

  Inside is a rotating device called an impeller that keeps blood flowing.

  The magnets keep it afloat or 'levitated' so it spins freely in space.

  Doctor Pagani added, "there is no bearing to suspend the impeller, so that there's no area that can wear out. So if the impeller is suspended in the blood field it doesn't touch any other metal parts."

  Shannon said, "it just pumps the blood through the heart and pushes it through without any sound and it, ah, it's very good."

  In theory, the pump could last a lifetime.

  And that's critical for patients like Tony on a transplant waiting list.

  Duraheart has been tested in Europe, but the University of Michigan is the only test site in the U.S. right now.

  After testing, the pump maker will seek approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

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