Stories about: heart transplant

Preparing patients and families to manage ventricular assist devices

Beth Hawkins ventricular assist devices

Children in severe heart failure sometimes have a ventricular assist device (VAD) implanted in their chest. VADs are electrically-powered heart pumps that can tide children over while they wait for a heart transplant. They can also be implanted long term if a child is ineligible for transplant, or simply buy children time to recover their own heart function.

Because problems with VADs can be life-threatening, families need extensive training in managing the device and its external controller at home. Nurse practitioner Beth Hawkins RN, MSN, FNP-C, and her colleagues in the Boston Children’s VAD Program begin the training at the child’s hospital bedside while they are still in the cardiac ICU. But despite lectures, demos and practice opportunities, the prospect of maintaining a VAD remains terrifying for many parents and children.

“A lot of families feel their child is attached to a ticking time bomb that could go off at any time,” says Hawkins. “Many say taking a child home on a VAD feels like having a newborn baby again.”

Hawkins realized that families needed more support.

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Catching—and avoiding—long-term rejection of heart transplants

As the close of American Heart Month draws near, let's take a moment to learn what two teams of scientists are doing to help heart transplant patients keep their new hearts in the long run. (englishsnow/Flickr)

You’re a heart transplant patient. You’ve been on the waiting list for months, maybe years. Now, you’re being wheeled out of the operating room, a donated heart beating in your chest.

You’ve finished one journey, but are only just starting on a new one: keeping your body from rejecting your new heart.

Luckily for you, new methods under development could help tell early on when chronic rejection problems—the kind that arise five or 10 years after your transplant—start to loom. And even better, scientists are homing in on a new way to prevent chronic (and maybe short-term) rejection from happening in the first place.

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Newly approved Berlin Heart helps patients waiting for a transplant

On the Berlin Heart, Alina Siman, 4, has regained her energy which will make her a better transplant candidate when a new organ becomes available

Four-year-old Alina Siman is being kept alive on a device that gained approval in the U.S. just two weeks ago. The Berlin Heart Group’s EXCOR, a ventricular assist device manufactured in Berlin, Germany, takes over the normal function of a heart by pumping blood directly to the pulmonary artery and into the lungs.

With FDA approval granted on December 16, the U.S. joins Europe and Canada in offering the device for children of all ages with end stage heart failure.

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