Dick Cheney on his LVAD

Image credit: heartfailure.org

via The Huffington Post (transcribing the NBC interview)


Let’s start in the obvious place. For those who have not seen you recently, you look a little different. You lost some weight. This past summer your doctors told you that after five heart attacks you had to make a decision. And you had major surgery. And you had a heart pump put in. Can you tell me a little bit about what they did?


Sure. Well, there’s a system called the LVAD, Left Ventricular Assist Device. And it in effect takes blood from the ventricle chamber of your heart and moves it into your aorta. And it significantly increases the amount of blood flow you’ve got going, which is vital when you get to end stage heart failure.

It significantly improves the function in the kidneys and your liver because they get an adequate supply of blood. And I’d reached the point after 30 years and five heart attacks where I really needed to do something. And so that’s what we did. It’s a pump that runs at about 9,000 RPMs. It’s battery powered from the outside. But it’s a wondrous device. It’s really a miracle of modern technology. And now I’m here today because we have that kind of technology. And because the doctors were able to adapt it to my situation.


More and more people are using these instead of heart transplants, but usually they use them for a year or two. Are you thinking about a heart transplant?


I haven’t made a decision yet. The technology was originally developed to provide a transition. To take somebody who’s reached the point where they needed a transplant but a transplant wouldn’t immediately be available, so they put this in as a temporary measure.

What’s happened over time is the technology’s gotten better and better and we’ve gotten more and more experience with people living with this technology. So I’ll have to make a decision at some point whether or not I want to go for a transplant. But we haven’t addressed that yet.

Editor’s note: If only all of our patients were this educated about their health care.

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