Worlds Smallest Heart Pump Available in NWA

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ust over seven percent of Arkansans have been told by their doctor they have heart disease.  For patients in severe condition, invasive surgery isn’t always an option and they face a grim decision-risk their life by having the surgery or shorten their life by not having the surgery. Now, new technology in Northwest Arkansas is making that decision easier while saving lives.

Bill Massey of Picayune, Mississippi has been through a lot of health problems with his heart.

“It scared me because I couldn’t breathe I couldn’t get enough breath I just felt like I was going to die really,” Massey remembers.

Since 2009, he’s had a heart attack, congestive heart failure, multiple blockages, stents in the arteries and bypass surgery. However, this past fall when he began having shortness of breath and needed another heart procedure to save his life, doctors said his heart was too weak for surgery.

Bill was in the right place at the right time. Technology offered him a new choice using the world’s smallest heart pump.

“What this device does is to release to let the heart rest and take over the heart pumping function and it pumps up to 2.5 liters per minute,” explained Dr. Jose Loyo, an Interventional Cardiologist at Northwest Medical Center Bentonville.

It’s called the Impella 2.5 by Abiomed. Here’s how the heart pump works: a thin catheter is put in a vessel in the groin. Cardiologists run it all the way up through that vessel and into the heart.

On the catheter is a tiny pump that makes sure enough blood is being pumped out of the heart, bringing all the organs enough oxygen. Dr. Loyo says this buys patient’s precious time, while they work to restore blood flow, in this case using stents. The Impella can be left in several hours or several days.

Northwest Medical Center in Bentonville and Springdale have had the Impella technology since October 2011 and were the first to offer it in the area.

Bill says the Impella changed his outlook on life from having no hope for the future to one that’s giving him more retirement years to fish and garden back home in Mississippi. Dr. Loyo says its heart conditions like Bill’s that are more common here. He blames not just an unhealthy diet, but the amount of food on our plate that puts Arkansans at a greater risk for heart disease.

“You’ll have a really bad combination that will lead to diabetes, hypertension, obesity and and COPD due to the smoking.  So that’s several of the reasons why this area Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri and Louisiana have so much cardiovascular disease.”

Insurance companies do pay for using the Impella pumping device during heart procedures. So far, cardiologists at Northwest Health System have used the device in 10 patients, all with successful results.

For more information on Impella, visit