Cardiologists diagnosed Zach with acute heart failure, with additional complications of liver, kidney and lung failure.
To say his condition was advanced would be an understatement. His ejection fraction (EF) score was 5%, which means that only 5% of the blood in his heart was being pumped out with each contraction. A normal, healthy EF is 50-70%.
"Zach was very close to death when he arrived at the hospital," says Andrew Sauer, MD, cardiologist and medical director of heart transplant and advanced heart failure at The University of Kansas Health System. "His heart was failing, and I feared he had just a few hours to live."
Dr. Sauer sat down with the family early on. They recall his clear but frightening message: Zach needed a new heart.
It was reassuring to have the expertise of an experienced heart failure team. The health system's heart failure specialists care for some of the sickest patients with the most complex heart issues. They provide a full range of care, including the most advanced treatment options for heart failure. For Zach, this meant a heart transplant would be possible. Our hospital is the only one in Kansas to offer heart transplant procedures and leading-edge interventions such as cardiac assist devices.
A transplant would take time. Cardiologists and cardiovascular surgeons developed a plan to stabilize Zach's condition until a heart transplant was available. To do this, surgeons implanted a left ventricular assist device (LVAD). This pump, powered by an external battery, pulls blood out of the heart's left ventricle into a mechanical pump, which then sends the blood back to the aorta for circulation. It helps the heart but does not take the place of this vital organ.
For Zach, it was a temporary fix.
"A VAD can be a bridge to transplant for many patients like Zach," says Travis Abicht, MD, surgical director of heart transplant and mechanical assist. "For others, VAD assists a heart in healing or helps a patient's heart work better when the patient is not suitable for transplant."