“It was like an atomic bomb went off in our family.”
Frank Rosinski’s heart stopped three times and doctors were able to revive him. Doctors immediately transferred the Greece man to Strong Memorial Hospital for heart failure care by Upstate New York’s largest and most experienced team.
UR Medicine cardiologists determined Rosinski needed a high-tech pump to support his weakened heart. Surgeons used an innovative procedure – which they introduced to the nation last year – to implant the device in his chest. He received a left ventricular assist device (LVAD), which is a powerful system designed to extend survival for people suffering with congestive heart failure.
“I can’t tell you how good it feels to be back from the brink and living well,” said the retired school administrator.
He’s one of more than 600 people who received LVADs at Strong Memorial, one of the busiest LVAD centers in the country known for long patient survival. This year, two patients will mark 10 years of living with LVAD support.
“UR Medicine began using LVADs to save lives 18 years ago and implanting a 600th is quite a milestone,” said Jeffrey Alexis, M.D., of the Advanced Heart Failure Program. The team participated in early clinical trials of first-generation technology, the HeartMate XVE, in 2001 and “we’ve worked closely with device makers to help improve design and patient survival and quality of life.”
A year ago, heart transplant surgeon Igor Gosev, M.D., and cardiac surgeon Peter Knight, M.D., who leads the Minimally Invasive Cardiac Surgery Program, were first in the country to implant a HeartMate 3 – the smallest LVAD available – using two 3-inch incisions rather than opening the sternum (breast bone).
“We’re seeing patients going home sooner, experiencing fewer complications and recovering more quickly than ever with this new procedure,” Gosev said. “It’s a game-changer for people who are already very sick and able to get better more easily.”
Upstate New York’s most experienced team
Strong’s heart failure team was first to introduce LVADs to Upstate New York in 2001 and over the past 18 years specialists have used each generation of the devices to save patients’ lives.
The team’s size and experience attracts people from Northern New York, Albany, Buffalo and the Southern Tier and Pennsylvania to travel to Rochester for the specialized care. There are three cardiac surgeons (Sunil Prasad, M.D., Bryan Barrus, M.D., and Gosev) and five heart failure cardiologists (Leway Chen, M.D., M.P.H., Eugene Storozynsky, M.D. Ph.D., Himabindu Vidula, M.D., Sabu Thomas, M.D., and Alexis) and a large team of support staff dedicated to caring for patients with congestive heart failure.
Strong Memorial Hospital is among the top 10 centers in the country for volume. Last year, the heart failure team provided 88 devices and surgeons used the less invasive implant technique providing patients an easier recovery.
LVADs were originally designed to serve patients who needed extra support while waiting for a heart transplant. Doctors can now also use them as permanent therapy when a patient opts out or is ineligible to receive a heart transplant. This advance was a result, in part, of clinical studies led by the Heart and Vascular team at Strong.
Unfortunately only 1 in 10 people waiting for a new heart actually receive one because of the shortage of organ donors. In New York, organ donation is low and Upstate New York patients have longer wait times than many areas of the country. As a result, doctors rely heavily on LVADs for patients waiting for life-saving transplant surgeries. (Join the state’s organ donor registry at: donorrecovery.org.)
About congestive heart failure and LVADs
Nearly 6 million people in the U.S. suffer from heart failure and approximately 915,000 new patients are diagnosed each year. For congestive heart failure patients who can no longer rely on earlier stage treatment options, an LVAD can help their weakened heart pump blood through the body and provide crucial support as patients await further treatment, including heart transplants.
Treatment options for advanced heart disease are limited: LVAD and/or heart transplantation. LVADs extend survival and can be used as the destination therapy or a bridge-to-transplant, as the HeartMate 3 is used.
Strong Memorial is one of the highest volume LVAD centers in the nation and UR Medicine cardiac surgeons and cardiologists are asked to participate in clinical studies of the newest devices, providing patients access to next-generation technology first.