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‘Awesome Technology’ — Cardiologist Uses Tiny Heart Pump at PMC

POCATELLO — Wednesday marked the day that the world’s smallest heart pump was used on a Portneuf Medical Center patient.

Dr. Fernando Grigera, an interventional cardiologist at Pocatello Cardiology, used the micro device to provide blood flow during a procedure on an elderly woman, who had other ailments that may not have made bypass surgery the preferred choice.

“It’s awesome technology,” Grigera said. “It allows you to do very complex procedures that would otherwise need bypass surgery or for very high risk procedures such as stenting. ... It’s easy to insert and safe.”

He said the device is used in a small percentage of procedures including ones where a patient may have other conditions that would not permit them to have bypass surgery or to help assist blood flow when a person’s heart is weak or recovering from a severe cardiac issue.

The Impella 2.5 pump, created by Abiomed, helps pump 2.5 liters of blood per minute. Aiding the flow of blood in a critical situation can prove vital to a patient’s outcome.

The device is threaded through the femoral artery in the groin and placed in the left ventricle via a catheter.

“It is mounted on a small catheter, put through the leg veins and that will aid the heart muscle in pumping — providing about 50 percent of what a normal heart pumps,” Grigera said. “It helps to get them through a very critical situation such as cardiogenic shock or heart attack or an interventional (procedure), avoiding a riskier bypass surgery.”

More than 500 hospitals in the U.S. are using this kind of pump and about 6,000 patients annually are treated with this technology since it came on the market in 2008.

Grigera said Thursday, sometimes patients can return home the same day or the next day after the pump has been used. He said it basically allows interventional cardiologists to work on very high risk patients that would traditionally go under the knife.

“It allows you to do procedures that are usually done by the surgeon by opening up the chest,’’ he said. ‘‘It allows you to do it without opening the heart.”

He said in some cases the pump can help flow the blood as the heart recovers. For example, following a heart attack, the pump could potentially be left in for a few days.

Grigera and his fellow interventional cardiologist David Gonzalez have developed the program at PMC over the past eight years.

“It’s been very successful,” Grigera said. “It’s very good for the community to be able to do these procedures here without needing to transfer them to a more complex location. More importantly is being able to treat the heart attacks immediately here. Otherwise the transfer time can be very deleterious with a patient.”