Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital is the first in Fort Bend County to use a tiny heart pump to protect a patient’s blood flow and save vital tissue during cardiac surgery.

In January, board-certified interventional cardiologist, Htut Win, M.D., used the Impella®  CP – the world’s smallest heart pump – to keep a patient’s blood flowing following cardiac arrest during a complex procedure to remove clots from his main artery.

The tiny pump was cleared by the FDA in 2016 for high-risk elective and emergency usage. It pumps up to 3.5 liters of blood every minute, protecting the brain and kidneys from the long-term damage that occurs when the patient’s own heart is not pumping enough blood. The small size of the pump allows it to be inserted percutaneously through a small hole in the leg, up through the main pumping chamber of the heart.

The first patient treated with the device, Eric Copans of Sugar Land, was admitted on Jan. 17 suffering from chest pain. He immediately went into cardiac arrest in the emergency department and was treated with a defibrillator before being rushed to the hospital’s cardiac catheterization lab. There, Win inserted the device through an incision in the groin, and threaded the pump via a long wire into Copans’ heart. Because the heart was not pumping enough blood due to cardiogenic shock, the device started to assist with blood flow.

Win determined that Copans suffered a coronary aneurysm and that clots inside it had made his main artery 100 percent blocked. He began clearing the blockage and placing stents to restore natural blood flow. During that procedure, Copans went into cardiac arrest again, which is not unusual, and the device took over his heart function completely.

“In the past, we would have to perform CPR manually while clearing the artery at the same time, and the risk of brain and kidney damage, or even death, was high because of the difficulty of pushing enough blood through the body,” said Win. “Now, the Impella CP takes over for the heart and protects vital organs, and it happens seamlessly. It is a true lifesaver.”

Win said that another benefit of the device is its ability to help patients recover from cardiac procedures. The pumps can remain in place for up to four days following a coronary procedure or incident to support blood flow while the patient’s heart regains strength. In Copans’ case, Win allowed the tiny device to do much of the work immediately following the artery-clearing procedure, then slowly reduced the amount of blood the pump was moving over a 24-hour period as Copans’ heart recovered.

“These situations obviously place a great deal of stress on the heart, and the pump allows the heart to rest without having to work so hard to keep blood flowing,” Win said. “The human heart typically pumps about 5 liters of blood per minute, so with the Impella CP at full strength, a patient’s heart only has to pump about 1.5 liters, which is enough to allow for recovery over a few hours or days.”

Houston Methodist Sugar Land is the only hospital in Fort Bend currently using the Impella CP and its less powerful version, the Impella 2.5, which was approved by the FDA in 2015. The Impella 2.5 is typically used in high-risk patients undergoing elective cardiac procedures such as a coronary artery bypass.

To learn more about the Houston Methodist Heart & Vascular Center at Sugar Land visit houstonmethodist.org/heart-sl or call 281.274.7500 to find a doctor in your area. Visit our Facebook page fb.com/methodistsugarland for the latest news, events and information.