SINGAPORE: A new heart pump which allows advanced heart failure patients to enjoy better quality of life while they wait for a heart transplant is now available in Singapore.
Called the HeartWare ventricular assist device (HVAD), it is smaller and lighter than previous generations of pumps, and is especially beneficial for Asian women.
The National Heart Centre Singapore receives an average of 23 referrals a year for heart transplant.
And while they wait for a match for their heart transplant, about a third of them would first need to implant a device such as a pacemaker.
Finding suitable donors for heart transplants in Singapore remains a key challenge.
The National Heart Centre Singapore performs an average of three heart transplants a year.
Currently there are about 13 patients on the waiting list. A patient can expect to wait up to six months for a heart transplant while the waiting times for those with a larger body size can take up to two years.
Mdm Helen Tan is the first patient in Singapore to be implanted with the new heart pump.
This comes after her heart failure worsened last year even after being on a pacemaker since 2008.
"Now, I feel relaxed and am able to chat with you now. Before, I couldn’t stand and would tremble. I also felt breathless when talking," said Mdm Tan.
Previous generations of heart pumps require a pocket to be created underneath the heart.
But the new device, which is the size of a golf ball, does away with this need as it fits right next to the heart.
The blood is then pumped through the heart — from the left ventricle to the aorta.
For Mdm Tan, a cable connects the device to an externally—worn controller.
The device is powered by a battery pack, which incorporates two batteries or one battery plus an adaptor connecting to a wall or vehicle electricity outlet.
The controller and batteries are contained in a carrying case that is designed to be worn either around the patient’s waist or over the shoulder.
Dr David Sim, Co—Director of Heart Failure Programme, National Heart Centre Singapore, said: "The advantage it has over the older generation of pumps is that it’s smaller in size — only 160g. That makes the implantation time much shorter and also because it’s small sized, it’s more suitable for small Asian ladies who are not deemed suitable for a bigger pump.
"This pump only needs an average of four hours for implantation compared to older generation of pumps where we may need another extra one to two hours to create the pump pocket.
Without subsidies, patients who opt for this new procedure can expect to fork out some S$300,000, which also includes their hospitalisation stay.
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