The World's Smallest Heart Pump

When a child's heart fails, a transplant is often the only hope, but to keep kids alive while they wait doctors may use artificial pumps. Some are too big and some require major surgery. Now a small device is changing the game for some of the smallest patients.

Card games are a good distraction for sisters Emily and Shayde Smith. Both suffer from a serious heart condition known as restrictive cardiomyopathy. Four years ago, little sis, Emily, had a transplant to replace her failing heart, but a couple months ago her body started to reject the donor heart. 

Dr. Vivian Dimas says, "We had to determine a way to support Emily as quickly as possible, or we were worried that we were going to lose her."  Doctors used this, the world's smallest heart pump, to keep Emily Alive. Instead of major open-heart surgery, the impella is inserted through an artery in the leg. 

A catheter pulls the blood out of the heart's left ventricle and ejects it to the aorta, so the heart can pump blood. Emily used the device for five days. Emily got a second heart transplant. Now, Shayde needs a transplant, too! 

Shayde Smith needs a heart transplant and says,"It's pretty scary to know I have to go through exactly the same thing that she is."  Emily will be by Shayde's side through it all. Emily wears the mask you saw to protect against infection during her recovery. 

The impella is designed to be a temporary device. Right now it's FDA for up to six hours in adults. For kids like Emily it's being used off-label for up to seven days. It can be used for patients as young as nine. Doctors are now working on a smaller pump they hope can help patients as young as three. 

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