Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Heart Pumps for Children

An effort to successfully develop a novel Pediatric Ventricular Assist Device (PVAD) or PediaFlow has been ongoing at the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, a program at the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC. Experts say that 1,000 children per year could benefit from the PediaFlow.

The development of the PVAD builds on the innovative work of Dr. James Antaki, co-investigator and project director for the NIH grant supporting the research. The leaders on the development team are designing a device that will meet the special needs of patients with congenital and acquired heart defects who are as young or as small as newborn babies.

So far, the availability of VADs for use in infants and young children is extremely limited with no device specifically approved for use in this age group in the U.S. The team with 20 members is diligently working to fill the current technology void in this field to provide medical devices for the tiniest patients in need of heart surgery.

Dr. Harvey Borovetz, the team’s lead and co-principal investigator on the five year $4.5 million NIH grant said, “The smallest of our patients have the greatest need for the device because the only means of support available to them is ECMO which has unacceptably high mortality and complications rates. We hope to be able to develop a device that will allow more babies with congenital heart defects or end-stage heart disease to be able to survive to transplantation, or perhaps even recover cardiac function and avoid the need for transplantation.”

The specific goal is to develop a miniature centrifugal pump using suspended magnetic levitation technology for use in babies between 5 and 35 pounds. The team plans to develop a smart control system that will indicate patterns consistent with a recovering heart. Since the device will be fully implantable with a small lead to an external power supply, children supported by the device will be able to be mobile and active.