House Call: Advances in Treating Heart Failure

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Currently, there are about six million people with congestive heart failure in the U.S., and approximately 10 to 20 percent of these individuals have severe symptoms that limit their ability to do the everyday activities most of us take for granted.

Congestive heart failure is a condition in which the heart can no longer pump enough blood to the rest of the body, which is often due to failure of the heart pumping function or stiffening of the heart muscle. 

More: PDF: Matters of the Heart Event

A left ventricular assist device (LVAD) is a battery-powered implantable pump used to treat congestive heart failure patients.  It helps an individual’s heart pump more blood and oxygen to the body, thus relieving the symptoms of congestive heart failure.

There are only about 3,000 donor hearts available for transplant each year.  In the past, LVADs were only being used for patients in need of a transplant, but were too sick to wait for the organ match. The pump was implanted as a "bridge" until the transplant became available. More recently, LVADs have been approved as "destination therapy" for patients who have severe congestive heart failure, but do not qualify for a transplant for a variety of reasons.

Wade Henderson began experiencing extreme shortness of breath and weakness in late 2011.  With a history of heart attacks and cardiovascular disease, he went to his cardiologist to get his symptoms checked.  His doctor referred him to Dr. Daniel Bensimhon, who administered a right heart catheterization to measure the output of his heart. 

Wade was given a diagnosis of advanced congestive heart failure with a six month survival prognosis, unless his condition was intervened.

After consulting with two regional health systems about a heart transplant, it was determined he was not a candidate for transplant.  However, he was a candidate for the left ventricular assist device (LVAD).  His LVAD was implanted in July of this year. Since then, his severe heart failure symptoms have subsided and a better quality of life has been restored.  Cardiovascular disease can present individuals with a long, up-hill battle, yet this new treatment for heart failure has delivered Wade hope, and more time to be with the ones he loves.

Over 10,000 LVADs have now been implanted worldwide, including approximately ten people in the Greensboro area. Patients who receive and LVAD have an average survival rate of nearly 70 percent at two years, where as individuals with advanced heart failure typically have a 50 percent survival rate at one year without advanced support. 

Cone Health Heart and Vascular Center has recently opened an advanced congestive heart failure clinic dedicated to providing state-of-the-art care for people with the condition. This includes extensive education about proper lifestyle modifications and medicines to treat their disease, as well as identifying patients who might benefit from advanced heart failure therapies, such as transplantation or an LVAD. Beginning in 2013, Cone Health will be partnering with Duke University Medical Center to become the first non-transplant center in North Carolina to begin implanting and managing LVADs, right here in Greensboro.

Spokesperson Background:

Dr. Daniel Bensimhon is a cardiologist at LeBauer HeartCare and a member of the Cone Health medical staff.  Dr. Bensimhon is one of the exceptional medical experts treating patients at the new, dedicated advanced congestive heart failure clinic at Cone Health Heart and Vascular Center.  He is a 1998 graduate of University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.  He completed his residency in Internal Medicine and fellowship in Cardiology at Duke University Medical Center.

Wade Henderson is one of approximately ten patients in the community who has had a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) implanted to treat his advanced congestive heart failure.  Originally from Rose Hill, NC, Wade has called Greensboro home for many years.  He is a retired Greensboro Police Department officer, who served 30 years for the organization.  He also served four years in the United Sates Coast Guard.