Impella Left Ventricular Assist Device

What is Impella?

Impella Ventricular Support System is a small Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD).  It is designed to help pump blood in patients who require short term support.  The device is a tiny pump inside of a catheter with an electric motor that can deliver about 2.5 to 5.0 liters of blood per minute to the body. 

How does the Impella heart pump work?

The Impella Ventricular Support System helps pump blood through the body by pulling blood out of the heart and pumping it into the aorta, bypassing the left ventricle (the left ventricle is the thickest of the heart's chambers and is responsible for pumping oxygenated blood to tissues all over the body). The Impella catheter is implanted into the left side of a patient's heart through a small incision in the femoral artery (major artery in the leg) or through a small incision in a subclavian artery (an artery in the chest).

What are the indications for Impella?

Impella has been increasingly used in patients with:

  • Severe heart failure - When the heart muscle is weak, blood cannot be pumped efficiently enough to get oxygen to all of the cells. Sometimes the heart becomes enlarged and weak. Other times it may be thick and stiff. Over time, the heart cannot keep up with its workload. When this happens, there isn't enough oxygenated blood reaching the brain and muscles, and fluid may begin to backup in the lungs and other tissues.
  • Cardiogenic shock - a condition in which the heart suddenly fails to pump enough oxygen-rich blood to the body, resulting in inadequate circulation, progressive severe damage to other organs, and even death. The condition is most often caused by a severe heart attack, but not everyone who has a heart attack has cardiogenic shock. Although cardiogenic shock is rare, it's often fatal if not treated immediately.
  • High-risk percutaneous intervention (PCI) – a percutaneous intervention is based on patient risk factors and comorbidities, the location and complexity of the blockage, and the hemodynamic clinical status of the patient.  

How does the Impella help the heart?

The Impella Ventricular Support System pumps blood to the body and bypasses the left ventricle; this allows the left ventricle to rest, and hopefully recovers, for patients with cardiogenic shock.   This mechanical cardiovascular support system can sustain a patient’s heart for up to seven days. While Impella is only used for what seems like a short period of time, in many cases it is just enough time to serve as a bridge to transplantation or recovery, both offering patients more time with their loved ones and a better quality of life.