Love Your Heart: Procedure after massive heart attack can save a life

Love Your Heart: Procedure after massive heart attack can save a life
Published: Mar. 21, 2018 at 4:34 PM CDT|Updated: May. 17, 2018 at 10:44 AM CDT
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SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - After a massive heart attack, your heart may struggle to perform as it should. According to Willis-Knighton, they are one of three hospitals in Louisiana that offers a potentially life-saving procedure that helps your heart after a massive heart attack.

Almost 4 years ago, Rodney Guin had a massive heart attack.

"It was just an artery that got clogged up and it happened to be the one that ran the whole heart," Guin said.

His blood pressure was low, and medicines weren't helping. So doctors decided he'd be a good fit for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation or ECMO.

ECMO is usually used for patients recovering from heart failure or heart surgery, as a bridge option to further treatment, or a heart assist device.

"You're trying to do the work of the heart and the lungs, if you're in cardiogenic shock, your heart is struggling because it's had a heart attack or some long-term condition that's caused you to have congestive heart failure. So your heart function is full, your heart is struggling to push the blood," said Dr. Curtis Prejean, a cardiovascular surgeon for Willis-Knighton.

He was Willis-Knighton's first patient to undergo the ECMO circuit. ECMO gave Guin's heart the chance to heal.

"My heart was damaged so bad, that I couldn't survive without my heart getting better or a transplant, so they decided the ECMO would be kind of a way to maybe get it some time to heal where I could survive long enough where I could maybe get a transplant done."

There are two different types of ECMO, VA ECMO and VV ECMO.

VA ECMO, or venuos-arterial ECMO, is used for cardiogenic shock after heart failure or for congestive heart failure. It is connected to both a vein and an artery and is used when there are problems with both the heart and lungs.

VV ECMO, or veno-venous ECMO, is connected to one or more veins and is used when the problem is in the lungs. The process is called acute circulatory support, when you add an oxygenator, that's when it is VAECMO.

"The ECMO circuit is basically cardiopulminary bypass, where you're draining blood from the body in some fashion, it's going through the ECMO circuit, a pump is pumping it through the oxygenator and returning the oxygenated blood to the body," said Dr. Prejean.

If a patient is put on the acute circulatory support after a massive heart attack, up to 50% of the patients survive.

The mortality rate if you don't put a patient on the acute circulatory support is 100%.

For Guin, he says it was a life-saving procedure and he's thankful his doctors decided to try the procedure.

"I don't think you realize how close to death you probably were without having a procedure like that, which basically saved your life," Guin said.

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