Healing the Heart – From Heart Failure to Recovery

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital February 12, 2014

Matt Fogg and nurse practitioner Leslie Griffin.

Sometimes a story hits your right in the heart. Matt Fogg’s experience with battling chronic heart failure to eventually overcoming it is one of those.

Typically, when patients receive a left ventricular assist device (LVAD), it serves as either a bridge to transplant, or as a lifetime therapy if the patient is not a candidate for transplantation. But one Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) patient became the hospital’s first chronic implant patient in recent years to successfully recover heart function with targeted therapy and, ultimately, have the device removed.

When Fogg, now 24, arrived at BWH two years ago, he was suffering from heart failure. His heart was so damaged that it was unable to provide enough blood to his organs. After Matt had received care at BWH for a month, cardiologist Dr. Eldrin Lewis of the Center for Advanced Heart Disease advocated for him to have an LVAD implanted. “Given that Matt was so young, we thought he would do well on an LVAD,” says Lewis.

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A New Heart – It’s Worth the Trip

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital July 16, 2013

Heart transplant recipient Kelly Belanger is thankful to be healthy and active again. (Photo by Blake Belanger)

People will travel great distances for a wide variety of things – to see a loved one, to get a deal on a car, even for a special meal. For Kelly Belanger of Sutton, Vermont, traveling 200 miles to connect with the right heart specialist was well worth the trip. Getting a new heart was even better.

Being active always has been important to Kelly, now 48 years old. Even as her health slowly degraded over the years, she still headed out for hikes, swims, and other outdoor adventures. But eventually her physical abilities no longer matched her desire.

After being diagnosed with ventricular tachycardia (a rapid heartbeat), Kelly was fitted with an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) to regulate her heart’s rhythm. The device helped save her life several times, but her health continued to decline.

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Options for Patients with Advanced Heart Disease

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital October 16, 2012

The multidisciplinary Advanced Heart Disease team meets weekly to thoroughly evaluate treatment options for every patient.

Many people with heart disease can successfully manage their condition with medications and lifestyle adjustments. But, for a relative few with very advanced heart disease, their only option is a heart transplant.

Because donor hearts are scarce, only about two thousand heart transplants are performed in the United States each year, leaving thousands of people across the nation on a wait list for a heart transplant. Additionally, many people with advanced heart disease are considered ineligible for heart transplant due to older age or other medical conditions.

Today, advanced heart disease specialists are using newer devices, like left ventricular assist devices (LVADs), as a temporary or long-term alternative to heart transplantation.  These devices are accessible at major medical centers and often provide a viable therapy option for patients ineligible for heart transplant.

For patients with biventricular heart failure (affecting both sides of the heart), one of the newest options – a total artificial heart – can support the patient until a donor heart can be found.  Earlier this year, a team of cardiovascular specialists at BWH, led by Dr. Gregory Couper, performed the first total artificial heart implant in New England.

“People who receive these devices earlier are stronger going into the procedure and have fewer complications after they receive the device,” explains Dr. Mandeep Mehra, Executive Director of the Center for Advanced Heart Disease at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH). “We also are finding that their outcomes more closely match those seen among people who have undergone heart transplants.”

“There is a lot we can do, but it’s important that people with advanced heart disease receive specialized evaluation and care as soon as possible, when the most options are available for them,” says Dr. Michael Givertz, Medical Director of the Heart Transplant and Mechanical Circulatory Support Program.

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