LVADs save lives: So why aren’t more available?
Abbott says its HeartMate 3 LVAD is clinically proven to extend life by five years or more — but thousands of people in the U.S. still die of heart failure within a year.
“Before I got my LVAD, there was no way I was getting on a plane. Before I got my LVAD, there was no way I was going back to work. And I was able to do both of those things — and more. To be at Killington [ski resort] with an LVAD, I never thought it would have happened, but it did,” Miller told a group of medtech insiders during our annual DeviceTalks Boston show in May.
In August 2022, Miller received a new heart.
“Having the LVAD was crucial in bridging the gap before the heart transplant,” he said. “Without it, I don’t think I would have been here to receive the transplant.”
Miller was fortunate to live in Boston, a city that’s one of the nation’s top healthcare and research hubs. He was near top-notch hospitals with access to LVADS such as Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Massachusetts General Hospital. Cardiologists at top hospitals knew what LVADs could do.
“Being here with the big centers a stone’s throw away was a big help,” Miller said.
His story highlights a challenge that Abbott officials are fighting to answer.The company’s research has shown that its HeartMate 3 pump can extend the lives of advanced heart patients by at least five years. However, Abbott estimates the U.S. has 15,000 advanced heart failure patients who are managed with inotropic therapies alone; they have a projected median lifespan under a year.
“Kyree is lucky to be in a place where he can get access, was referred, and had people who made the right referral based upon the disease that he had. And the benefits are obvious,” said Dr. Robert Higgins, president of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and EVP of Mass General Brigham.
“The challenge that we’re thinking about is that not everyone has a cardiologist, or access to advanced heart failure therapies,” Higgins continued. “And in particular, [minorities] and women don’t necessarily have access to advanced heart failure therapies, which include LVADs, as well as the modern technologies — transplant being one of them.”
Miller later said: “As a gay black man, the healthcare system can’t be one-size-fits-all, either. And in some ways, it feels like it is.”