Treating patients with heart failure just became a little easier for one doctor in the Valley.
Dr. Robert VerNooy became the first physician in Virginia to implant an improved heart pacing device into the body.
"The heart muscle may be out of sync. What this device does is try to recreate the heart muscle coming in sync from both sides of the heart. What we do is put a wire on one side of the heart and the other, and try to then pace from both sides," explained Rockingham Memorial Hospital electrophysiologist Robert VerNooy.
That device is called a CRT-D, or Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy Defibrillator.
"It's been shown that if we pace both sides of the heart muscle, we can maybe help the heart pump stronger," he said.
The procedure involves a small surgical incision in the vein. Leads are then guided down the vein to the heart. Those leads are placed on each side of the heart.
Once in place, and plugged into the device, energy can then be sent directly to the heart.
This device also has four electrodes, whereas the existing device only has two.
"Having four electrodes allows us to play with that over time, much more easily without having to redo the procedure: which adds risks, complications, infections and patient discomfort," said VerNooy.
Having to redo the procedure is also costly for patients.
VerNooy says if there is a complication due to placement of the existing device, a patient would have to return to the hospital to have the lead repositioned.
"This can result in increased radiation exposure, risk of infection and more medical costs,” he said.
The CRT-D not only saves a patient money, but it also helps to provide a better quality of life.
"It's been shown it can help patients live longer," he said.
VerNooy says patients can live months to years longer. The device can also help decrease congestive heart failure.
VerNooy has performed three successful operations.
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