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Today's treatment options help heart failure patients live longer, better

Kenneth Clowers needed a new heart but didn't want to take the place of a younger person on a transplant list

Earlville resident Kenneth Clowers, 67, is retired but still enjoys helping out now and then at the family's auto repair business. But, he had to stop at least four times to regain his energy while walking the one-and-half blocks from his house to the shop.

Clowers was suffering from heart failure, caused in his case by damage from an earlier heart attack and the effects of diabetes.

The condition was robbing Clowers of energy, shortening his breath and causing a number of other symptoms. He needed a new heart but didn't want to take the place of a younger person on a transplant list.

Instead, on July 24, 2012, Clowers was given a left ventricle assist device (LVAD), which takes over the pumping function of the heart's left ventricle.

Dr. Bryan Foy, a cardiovascular surgeon at Edward Heart Hospital and Cardiac Surgery Associates, implanted the device – the Thoratec HeartMate II. It was the second LVAD surgery performed at Edward Hospital, the only community hospital in the Chicago area providing mechanical circulatory support as a non-transplant program.

The procedure was more complex due to the presence of scar tissue that formed after Clowers' earlier bypass surgery.

Dr. Foy inserted the pump in Clowers’ upper abdomen and attached it to the left ventricle and the aorta, which carries oxygenated blood to the entire body.

The pump is connected to a control unit and powered by batteries that are outside the body, worn in holsters and a belt pack, a minor inconvenience, according to Clowers’ wife, Jean.

“Charging the batteries and calling in readings from the machine is well worth it because he's feeling so much better," says Jean.

Clowers now can make the trip to the shop without a single stop, and he hopes to be back at the bowling alley soon, enjoying his favorite hobby.

"LVAD therapy can be a very good option for heart failure patients who are not candidates for a heart transplant, and for whom maximum medical treatment isn't enough,” says Dr. Foy. “In Kenneth's case, it brought him from end stage heart failure, with a risk of death within six months, to a heart function that's tantamount to normal."

According to Dr. Maria Costanzo, a cardiologist with Edward Hospital and Midwest Heart-Advocate Medical Group who specializes in advanced heart failure and oversees Clowers' medical care, "Kenneth looks so much better and his neuropathy and kidney function have improved greatly since the LVAD thanks to better blood flow."

LVAD, which also is used as a "bridge to transplant" for patients on a waiting list, is just one of the heart failure treatments that were unavailable to people of earlier generations.

"More people need to know that if you develop heart failure there are options available. You don't have to suffer in silence," says Dr. Foy.

For more information on LVAD, call (630) 416-7796.


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801 S. Washington, Naperville, IL 60540 • (630) 527-3000

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