One of the smallest heart pumps in the world used in Little Rock

LITTLE ROCK (KATV)--It's one of the smallest heart pumps in the world and it's being used right here in Little Rock. It's called the Impella, paving the way for extra time to heal and prep for a new heart. Baptist Health in Little Rock was the first hospital in Arkansas to implant the Impella in a patient and to date they've implanted around 20. Tony McNatt began having heart complications in 2002, nearly 10 years later the left side of this heart started to give out. As he was patiently waiting for an artificial heart known as a HeartMate, he says he thought he was a goner until this cutting edge technology kept him alive. McNatt is one of nearly 20 patients at Baptist Health that's had an Impella implanted a device performing life-sustaining functions. "I did not know anything about the Impella until they were going to put it in me," said McNatt. McNatt was being treated at Baptist Health in January 2011 awaiting an artificial heart, or the closest device to one, known as a HeartMate 2. He said, it was while waiting when his heart began to crash. "They came in there and basically said we've got to do this right now, and Dr. Ransom explained to me what he was going to do and what it was and before I knew it, they were putting it in," said McNatt. Three different Impella devices are used at Baptist Health, but only one is surgically implanted. The Impella 5.0 made by Abiomed, an intravascular micro axial blood pump delivering up to 5 liters a min of blood from the left ventricle to the aorta. Its equivalent to what a normal heart should function like. It was this Impella, keeping McNatt alive until his HeartMate transplant. "His kidneys and liver and things weren't working well enough for us to do a significant operation and implant that, so we used the Impella and put it through his auxiliary artery and was able to support him very nicely with that until everything recovered," said Dr. John Ransom, Surgical Director of Baptist Health Transplant. "And he got in good enough shape that we could take him to the operating room and implant the HeartMate 2," he added Baptist Health here in Little Rock that was the first hospital in the entire state to implant one of these into their patients nearly 5 years ago. "It spins this motor, as it spins it this Impella sucks blood in through these holes, then it goes across the aortic valve, blood comes out and ejects through this hole. it spins fast enough that it can suck blood out of the heart and pump it at a very affective rate, this one of up 4.5 to 5 liters," said Dr. Ransom. Just days after the Impella was implanted, Dr. Ransom and his team took the Impella out and successfully implanted McNatt's new HeartMate. "Once I got it and began to recover from the heart surgery I was realizing how much I could do compared to what I was before, and now I'm able to go to school and do most of the things ... travel, I basically live nearly a normal life," added McNatt. McNatt now walks around with two batteries strapped to his side and his life line, resembling a fanny pack carrying his HeartMate. Without the Impella that kept alive long enough for his new "heart" he says he's sure he would not have been here today to share his story. "The Impella has allowed me to live, if it had not been for that I would not have made it to surgery to get implanted with a heart mate, it's that simple," said McNatt. The Impella is still a fairly new device that's only been used by health care providers for less than a decade. Prior, doctors were forced to use bigger pumps that would render a patient almost immobile. The other two Impella devices Baptist Health has is only used during surgeries and immediately taken out. While the 5.0 can be implanted for up to 30 days.