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St. Luke`s physician helps patient`s failing heart

Friday, March 05, 2004

MILWAUKEE, Wis, Recently, at St. Luke’s Medical Center, Frank Downey, M.D. performed a life saving procedure on a 49-year-old female patient. The patient has severe heart failure requiring a heart transplant. But until a heart becomes available, her heart needs assistance to pump efficiently.

Dr. Downey implanted a ventricular assist device or VAD, into the woman. A VAD is a small mechanical pump attached to the left ventricle of the heart. Once implanted, cables from the device pass through the lower abdominal wall and attach to an external battery pack that powers the pump. Blood flows through the VAD and helps the heart pump blood to the rest of the body. Without this procedure, the patient might not survive the wait for a new heart.

St. Luke’s performs more VAD implants than any other hospital in Wisconsin. In fact, it was the first hospital in the Midwest to implant a VAD in 1994. Historically, the VAD was primarily used as a “bridge to transplant,” keeping a patient’s heart pumping while awaiting a heart transplant. Recently, the FDA approved the device as a “destination therapy,” meaning a VAD can be a permanent solution for patients with severe congestive heart failure.

St. Luke’s Medical Center is a part of Aurora Health Care, a not-for-profit Wisconsin health care provider and a nationally recognized leader in efforts to improve the quality of health care. Aurora offers services at sites in 80 communities throughout eastern Wisconsin.

Contact: Jennifer Gross (414-385-2363)

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