Bionic woman: LVAD helps heart

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Left ventricular assist devices or LVADs for short have been around in some form since the 1960s. (KFSN)

Left ventricular assist devices or LVADs for short have been around in some form since the 1960s. The devices were once used as a bridge to keep patients alive until a heart was available for transplantation. But now, the newest versions are better than ever, and they may even be able to help heal hearts.

Several years ago, Ruby Moody suffered two heart attacks and flat-lined in the hospital. Today the 79-year-old is going strong thanks to her left-ventricular assist device.

"I would fully recommend it to anyone that loved life like I love life, to go that route," Ruby Moody told ABC30.

LVADs remove blood from the left ventricle of the heart and pump it into the aorta. The device was once used as a temporary solution to keep patients alive until a heart transplant. But now the pumps are being used as a permanent treatment for many patients.

"It's a good thing, and for those patients who need it, it's lifesaving," David Rawitscher, M.D. Medical Director of the Congestive Heart Failure Clinic at The Heart Hospital Baylor, Plano told ABC30.

The newest LVADs are smaller, more durable and provide continuous flow. Now researchers are studying whether they can actually heal hearts. Doctors are implanting LVADs temporarily in hopes that they will shrink enlarged hearts and reverse some of the damage. Then they'll remove the devices.

Ruby plugs in her battery powered pump every night. It takes some effort but Ruby and everyone who sees her says the device has changed her life.

Crystal Gibbs, R.N., LVAD Coordinator at The Heart Hospital Baylor Plano explained, "Her quality of life drastically improved. She's back to doing the things she loved."

"I have more energy; I can watch my great grandson play football," said Moody.

More than 5 million Americans have heart failure and about 150,000 suffer from chronic, severe heart failure. There are only about 2,100 donor hearts available each year, so LVADs are an important treatment option for patients who can't get a donor heart right away.

For more information, contact:

Susan Hall

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