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Heart Failure: LVAD Technology Giving Hope To Those In Need Of Transplant

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - The FDA has recently approved a medical device that is giving hope for patients with heart failure.

Heart failure is one of the fastest growing kinds of heart disease, reports CBS2's Dr. Max Gomez.

When a heart attack damages heart muscle, the rest of the heart has to work extra hard, and that can lead to failure.

When 72-year-old Woody Manzer moves around his house, he's tethered to a battery that sits on the floor of his living room. It's his lifeline, powering his heart.

Just two years ago, Manzer was in heart failure.

"I don't remember it, but I guess I almost died," he said. "They said my heart function was down to less than 25 percent."

He needed a heart transplant, but his older age made him ineligible for one. His cardiologist, Melana Yuzefpolskaya from New York-Presbyterian/Columbia, recommended a medical device called an LVAD.

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The device is attached to the left ventricle and aorta of a patient's heart to help pump blood to compensate for the weak and failing heart. The powercord for the pump snakes through the body and out a port in the belly.

"Once you reach advanced heart failure stages the survival rate is very poor," said Yuzefpolskaya. "LVAD has changed that completely. What the trial showed is the survival is over 75 percent in two years, and these patients otherwise would not have fared so well.

"We have patients on the original pump for eight years," she said. "Over 50 percent of our patients make it beyond the five-year mark."

The FDA has now approved the LVAD for long-term use.

Patients have to be extra careful of infection at the port site. When Manzer leaves the house, he wears batteries weighing 7 pounds and carries an extra set just in case.

He says it's all worth it.

"It's definitely a second lease on life for me," said Manzer. "I feel like I can go about 20, 25 years."

He's spent much of the last two years traveling with his family making every moment count.

LVADS, which stands for left ventricula assist device, had been approved as a temporary bridge while the patient waited for a heart transplant.

There aren't enough hearts to go around, even for younger patients who would qualify. Now this LVAD can be used as a permanent heart assist.

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