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When a Heart Attack is Severe

Lifesaving treatment options include the world’s smallest heart pump

Your heart is complex. When it’s in distress from a heart attack, you need specialists who understand its complexities and have the resources to provide necessary care. Here’s a look at two lifesaving treatments Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) can use to help people following a severe heart attack.

Your heart needs blood too

Heart muscles need oxygen-rich blood to pump. A heart attack occurs when one or more regions of heart muscle experience lack of oxygen caused by blocked blood flow. “Although a heart attack most commonly affects the left ventricle, it also can affect the heart’s right side,” says cardiologist Ronald Freudenberger, MD, with LVPG Cardiology.

Severity varies

All heart attacks are serious. However, a severe heart attack may result in cardiogenic shock, a condition in which your heart can’t pump enough blood to meet your body’s needs. Without proper treatment, cardiogenic shock is often fatal.

Help for both sides

Impella® is the world’s smallest heart pump. It’s used to temporarily support a weak heart following cardiogenic shock. Impella is implanted with a catheter through an artery in the leg and placed in the heart. “LVHN is among only a few hospitals nationwide that implants Impella in the heart’s left and right sides,” Freudenberger says. “Previously, patients who needed right heart support required open-heart surgery.”

Giving your heart a rest

Impella can sustain your heart for up to seven days, giving it a chance to rest and recover. Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) is another technology that can give the heart a break. With ECMO, blood is drawn from the body, oxygenated and returned to the body.

A unique program

LVHN has one of the largest heart attack programs in the nation. It includes a team of specialists available 24/7 – board-certified advanced heart failure specialists, surgeons, cardiologists, respiratory therapists, registered nurses and others – to care for people suffering cardiogenic shock. “We have the technology and experts to save lives, help people begin rehabilitation earlier and get better faster,” Freudenberger says. “That’s what makes LVHN unique.”

Learn more about heart attack care: LVHN.org/heart