Patient Care

URMC Among Busiest Centers for Advanced Heart Failure Care in U.S.

Apr. 6, 2022

20 years of experience with mechanical heart pumps contributes to Top 3 ranking

The University of Rochester Medical Center’s 20 years of experience with mechanical heart pumps for heart failure survival has made it one of the busiest programs in the country. Strong Memorial Hospital is one of the top three sites for patients who need high-tech pumps to survive advanced congestive heart failure.

The implantable pumps, known as left ventricular assist devices (LVADs), are a common therapy for congestive heart failure, when the heart cannot pump enough blood and oxygen to support other organs. Patients often experience difficulty breathing, fatigue, and swelling of the legs, feet, and abdomen, and their quality of life is poor.

Many patients live years with the LVAD, while others may need a heart transplant. Strong Memorial Hospital is the only heart failure and transplant program in Upstate New York.

Jeffrey Alexis, M.D.

“Our approach is to maximize advanced heart failure therapies for the community. Whether it’s medications, an LVAD or heart transplantation, we work with each patient to provide the best possible care and outcome,” said Jeffrey Alexis, M.D., medical director of ventricular assist devices for UR Medicine’s Advanced Heart Failure team.

In 2021, Strong Memorial was a top three site for implanting Abbott’s HeartMate 3 LVADs. Strong is routinely among the top 10 sites for this care.

The URMC cardiac care team has been on the front line of LVAD research and care for 20 years. Cardiologists and cardiac surgeons were part of early clinical studies of the first mechanical pumps. Originally approved as a “bridge” to heart transplant, their use has expanded to long-term therapy.

The Advanced Heart Failure team has been instrumental in the study and advancement of each generation of these devices. And about 850 people from across Upstate and Western New York and Pennsylvania have received LVADs.

Igor Gosev, M.D., Ph.D.

In 2018, UR Medicine cardiac surgery teams were first in the nation to introduce a less-invasive technique for implanting the life-saving heart pump, making recovery easier for patients. This technique was developed by Igor Gosev, M.D., Ph.D., who is the surgical leader of both the Advanced Heart Failure team and VAD program. A year later, their pioneering efforts led to FDA approval of the game-changing procedure.

Katherine Wood, M.D.

Using this alternate approach, surgeons attach the HeartMate 3 LVAD to the heart using two small incisions, avoiding the need to open the sternum, or “crack the chest.” “Studies show this technique allows patients to heal faster,” said surgeon Katherine Wood, M.D., an assistant professor of Surgery who was part of the first HeartMate 3 implant at URMC and participates in transplants and LVAD implants with Gosev. Wood was recently named VAD Program Surgical Director.  

“When people are facing this disease, the opportunity to have a better quality of life is critically important. LVAD technology has offered a significant advance in their care,” said Leway Chen, M.D., M.P.H., medical director of the Advanced Heart Failure program.

More than 6 million people in the U.S. suffer from congestive heart failure and treatment options are limited, but LVADs with or without heart transplantation help to extend survival.