The New York Times (7/19, Altman) reports that former Vice President Dick Cheney underwent a procedure to implant a mechanical pump that is now being given to a small number of people with congestive heart failure. It is generally used in individuals who have severe heart failure and are at the risk of dying within several months without the device.
These pumps are partial artificial hearts also known as “ventricular assist devices”. They are implanted as a last resort either for use as a temporary device until heart transplantation or may at times be used as a permanent device. Former Vice President Cheney has congestive heart failure most likely resulting from five prior heart attacks. In addition, Mr. Cheney has had angioplasty to open up blocked coronary arteries and also stents to increase perfusion. He also had a prior pacemaker and defibrillator.
Approximately 5.8 million people in the United States have congestive heart failure. About 670,000 people are diagnosed with heart failure each year. The most common causes of heart failure include coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Early diagnosis and treatment can improve quality of life and life expectancy for those who have heart failure. The symptoms of heart failure may include shortness of breath during activity, difficulty in breathing when lying down, swelling of the legs and ankles, and general fatigue and weakness.