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Novel Test Holds Promise in Anticipating Response of Heart Attack Patients to Mechanical Pumps

Friday, February 16, 2024


MIT Institute for Medical, Engineering & Science researchers have devised a test to forecast dysfunction in heart attack patients who receive mechanical pumps, known as ventricular assist devices (VADs). Every year, approximately 50,000 individuals in the United States suffer cardiogenic shock, a severe condition often stemming from heart attacks, where the heart fails to pump enough blood for the body's needs. Many of these patients rely on VADs to temporarily support their hearts until they can recover.

However, about half of these cases encounter an imbalance between the left and right ventricles, posing significant risks. To address this issue, MIT researchers developed a test to help doctors predict the likelihood of dysfunction occurring in individual patients, providing them with more confidence in deciding whether to use VADs.

In treating patients with cardiogenic shock, a percutaneous VAD can be inserted through the arteries, helping pump blood out of the left ventricle, which supplies blood to most organs. However, the right ventricle, responsible for pumping blood to the lungs, often struggles to adapt to changes induced by VADs.

Through studies on an animal model of heart failure, researchers implanted VADs into the left ventricles of each animal and analyzed various metrics of heart function while adjusting the pumping speed of the device. They discovered that the adaptability of the pulmonary vascular system, which carries blood between the heart and lungs, played a crucial role in how well the right ventricle responded to VAD implantation.

The effectiveness of the system depended on its ability to adjust resistance and compliance to manage the additional flow induced by the VAD. This breakthrough could significantly improve treatment outcomes for heart attack patients receiving mechanical pump support.