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Adventist Heart Institute Physicians Perform First-In-Region Heart Procedure


For Immediate Release  

December 4, 2012

Contact:  Joshua Cowan



Adventist Heart Institute Physicians Perform First-In-Region Heart Procedure

Impella Heart Pump Installed

December 6, 2012, St. Helena, CA. Continuing its tradition of leadership in cardiac care, a surgical team at St. Helena Hospital Napa Valley, part of Adventist Heart Institute, led by Dr. Andreas Sakopoulos, MD, has performed the first procedure using an Impella heart pump in the North Bay area. The Impella procedure joins a long list of St. Helena firsts in cardiac treatment spanning more than three decades, including the first to offer coronary angiograms, coronary angioplasty and coronary bypass surgery, as well as the first to offer “off pump” coronary bypass surgery and endovascular repair of thoracic aortic aneurysms.

“We utilized this device recently on a patient with a heart that was functioning at 10-15%”, said Dr. Sakopoulos.  “With the use of the Impella, the patient had a five way bypass operation.  Without this new technology he would have had a harder time recovering from surgery and might not have survived.”

The Impella, the world’s smallest artificial heart pump, can be inserted through a catheter in minutes, using a small incision in the groin. Smaller in diameter than a pencil, and only 10-12 cm in length, the Impella does not require a sternotomy. Approved by the FDA for partial circulatory support for six hours, the device delivers 2.5 liters of blood flow per minute, drawing blood from the left ventricle and pumping it into the aorta and out into the body. A larger model is also available which can pump 5 liters of blood per minute, replacing the entire heart function.

“This is an exciting advance in cardiac care, creating a new standard,” says Dr. Sakopoulos. “What this means for our patients is that we can now perform life-saving procedures on many who would previously have been considered ineligible for angioplasty or surgery due to the severity of their heart condition. This is a minimally invasive procedure that supports cardiac function delivering blood to the body while we work on a heart, performing angioplasty/stenting or coronary artery bypass surgery.”

Manufactured by Abiomed, the Impella established a successful track record in Europe for a number of years before being approved for use in the United States. It is considered ideal for patients with reduced heart pumping action who need to have the blood vessels to their hearts opened. In addition to providing support during angioplasty, the pump can also be used to help a patient’s weakened heart gain strength before and after surgery. This opens up the possibility of life-saving procedures for more patients than ever before.  

About St. Helena Hospital: St. Helena Hospital is part of Adventist Health, a faith-based, not-for-profit integrated health care delivery system serving communities in California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington. Our workforce of 28,700 includes more than 21,000 employees; 4,500 medical staff physicians; and 3,000 volunteers. Founded on Seventh-day Adventist health values, Adventist Health provides compassionate care in 19 hospitals, more than 150 clinics (hospital-based, rural health and physician clinics), 14 home care agencies, six hospice agencies and four joint-venture retirement centers. We invite you to visit for more information.