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Posted on Wed. Sep. 03, 2014 - 12:01 am EDT

Columbia City man receives state's first minimally invasive heart pump implant

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A Columbia City man recently became the first person to receive a new minimally invasive heart pump implant at an Indiana hospital.

Kevin Pulley, 56, was diagnosed with a rapidly progressing case of viral cardiomyopathy, an Indiana University Health news release said. Medications didn't help him, so doctors recommended the husband and father of six get a ventricular assist device.

Cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Z. A. Hashmi of Indiana University Health led the team that performed the surgery at IU Health's Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis. The hospital is one of the few in the nation offering the minimally invasive approach to implanting a ventricular assist device.

Doctors can use such a device as a long-term therapy for a patient with heart problems or to keep the patient's heart beating until a donor heart can be located for a transplant operation, the news release said. Technology advances now allow the assist devices to be made in smaller sizes, which makes it possible to use less-invasive ways to implant them.

Traditionally, implanting a ventricular assist device involved major surgery, including cutting open the patient's chest and breaking his or her sternum, the news release said. With the minimally invasive approach, surgeons make a small incision on the side of the patient's chest so the implant can be slipped under the patient's ribs and attached to his or her heart.

Patients receiving the minimally invasive approach have a smaller incision and experience less time in surgery, a shorter hospital stay, faster recovery and fewer complications, the news release said. The approach also makes it easier for surgeons to plan for a patient's future heart transplant surgery.

"It's amazing what doctors are able to do now," Pulley said in the news release. "I would have died if it wasn't for this surgery. And now I feel great."

Before the implant surgery, Pulley grew so weak he became fatigued when brushing his teeth, the news release said.

"If we keep doing things the way we've always done them, then our results will remain the same," Hashmi said in the news release. "It is important that we continue to innovate and keep pace with advancing medical technology as we develop safer operating techniques for patients."

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