Czech doctors test breakthrough heart treatment

PHP HeartMate pump, photo: CTK

Doctors at Prague’s Institute for Clinical and Experimental Medicine are the first in the world to use a special heart pump in order to save patients with an acute heart failure. The PHP HeartMate pump can replace the heart’s function for 72 hours, giving doctors the chance to decide about the best possible treatment. So far, four patients at IKEM have undergone this experimental treatment:

PHP HeartMate pump, photo: CTK
I spoke to IKEM’s Professor Jiří Malý and first asked him to explain how the pump works:

“The pump is inserted via blood vessels from the groin in local anaesthesia, which is really good for the patient, because previous mechanical circulatory which are used nowadays have to be done in total anaesthesia.

“We have to perform cardiac surgery, which is a major surgery compared to this one, which is quite straightforward and very short. The catheter is inserted within a few minutes and placed in position in the aortic valve.”

Apart from being really fast, what is the main advantage of this treatment?

“It can be used not just in specialised centres like we have here in IKEM, but it can be used in normal hospitals, in normal critical care units and ICU units where doctors are dealing with patients in severe cardiogenic shock or with severe heart failure.”

“We are talking about a device which is now in a trial run and it is not used commercially, but hopefully in the future, the device will be used in normal hospitals.”

So far you are only using it in case of patients with acute heart failure?

“Yes. We launched the programme in January and so far we have implanted four patients and, as I mentioned earlier, we are part of an international study including Germany, Hungary and Austria, with an advisory board with doctors from the US as well, and hopefully we will be successful and these kinds of supportive devices will be widespread in the near future.”

Jiří Malý, photo: Czech Television
The patients can live with the pump for up to 72 hours. What happens in the meantime?

“Usually the patient is at the ICU at the hospital and we are watching the patient very carefully, monitoring the cardiac function and other vital functions. And if the cardiac function isn’t recovered after 72 hours, we have to do something else.

“This was the case of our four patients, who had to be on chronic support, which is quite common in our hospital. But hopefully in the future we will be able to use these devices for longer than 72 hours.”

How are your patients doing?

“Actually all four of them are doing fine. Two of them have already been discharged. Two of them are still in the hospital, but they are doing really well.”