Advanced Heart Failure Care at Sharp Memorial Hospital
Therapies and Treatments
Our specialists work closely together to personalize treatments for every patient. For advanced heart failure, we offer a variety of medical therapies, advanced treatments and support services.
CardioMEMS™ Heart Failure Monitoring System
This minimally invasive procedure involves placing a miniature, wireless sensor through a vein into a branch of a pulmonary artery. Using a special pillow that acts as an antenna, the device monitors pressure and wirelessly sends daily readings from a patient's home to a doctor on our team. The data helps us detect early signs of problems, allowing time to adjust medications before the heart failure gets worse. Sharp Memorial participated in the national clinical trial for this device.
Cardiac resynchronization therapy
Specialized devices such as cardiac pacemakers and implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) send electrical signals to help regulate the heartbeat.
A special kind of pacemaker is implanted to help both sides of the heart beat "in sync," increasing the amount of blood pumped by the heart into the rest of the body.
Heart valve repair or replacement
Heart valves play a key role in the movement of blood throughout the heart. Minimally invasive valve repair and replacement — such as transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) — is performed through small incisions, resulting in less pain and scarring; a shorter hospital stay; and a quicker return to normal activities.
This medical therapy is used for patients with heart failure who have a significant buildup of fluid in their bodies. Patients are connected to a portable machine that passes a small amount of blood from a peripheral vein through a filter to remove excess fluid. The filtered blood is then returned to the body.
Bridge to recovery
For some patients, recovery from heart failure is possible. A mechanical heart pump called a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) may be used to temporarily support function, allowing the heart to regain strength.
Advanced treatments: mechanical circulatory support
Sharp Memorial Hospital is San Diego's leader in mechanical circulatory support devices, which supplement the pumping function of hearts that are too weak to sufficiently pump on their own.
Sharp offers a variety of mechanical circulatory support systems to meet specific patient needs. These include long-term devices such as HeartMate II® and HeartMate III®, as well as short-term systems that can be removed if the heart regains strength or to support patients while they are in the hospital.
More than 500 patients with advanced heart failure — ages 15 to 87 — have received left ventricular assist devices (LVADs) at our facility since the program began in 1987. Sharp Memorial currently holds the record for the oldest person implanted with an LVAD (87 years old at the time) as well as the longest-living LVAD recipient (received the device in 2002). And, in 2006, we successfully removed a pump from the world's youngest patient — age 16 at the time — after his heart recovered from an injury.
In 2008, the hospital became one of the first facilities in the United States to receive advanced certification in ventricular assist devices from The Joint Commission, the leading accreditor of U.S. health care organizations.
The hospital is a national leader in clinical trials for mechanical circulatory support systems, often selected in the first tier for participation. Sharp Memorial is also an international destination training center for HeartMate II.
Advanced treatments: heart transplantation
Sharp Memorial Hospital is the leading cardiac transplant center in San Diego County, performing an average of 12 adult heart transplants each year. In total, surgeons at Sharp have performed more than 400 transplants since 1985.
Our experienced team offers the multidisciplinary expertise required to manage this complex patient population. The transplant center includes more than 50 direct caregivers, including four physicians who were at Sharp Memorial for the first transplant more than three decades ago.
We are committed to achieving the best possible outcomes for patients. The hospital's heart transplant survival rates are consistently among the highest in the nation.
The hazard ratios in the graph below express the likelihood that a patient who received a heart transplant would die within three years, compared to outcomes from all U.S. programs. The ratio is adjusted to reflect the severity of illness and other significant health factors within each hospital's heart transplant patient population.
A ratio above 1 indicates higher than expected deaths and a ratio below 1 indicates lower than expected deaths. Sharp Memorial's hazard ratio of 0.52 indicates that patients were 48 percent less likely to die within three years of transplant, compared to what was expected.
Heart devices in emergency medicine
Every second counts when a patient goes into cardiac arrest. This is even true for patients in the hospital. Since 1986, a team of specially trained physicians and nurses has been available round-the-clock at Sharp Memorial to set up and operate a heart-lung bypass system at the bedside — no matter where the patient may be in the hospital — saving the lives of those needing resuscitation when other efforts have failed.
Known as extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO, this device is traditionally used during planned heart surgeries to circulate and oxygenate blood while circumventing the heart and lungs. At Sharp Memorial, caregivers have long used the system to keep patients suffering from cardiac arrest alive long enough to diagnosis and treat potentially deadly conditions.
In 2011, emergency physicians at Sharp Memorial became the first in the nation, and among a handful in the world, to use ECMO and other forms of extracorporeal cardiopulmonary resuscitation (ECPR) to save the lives of patients arriving to the Emergency Department in complete cardiac arrest. The team's work continues to generate widespread attention, with physicians now being invited to train doctors nationally and internationally on how to incorporate the technology at their own hospitals.
For patients who've had heart surgery, cardiac rehabilitation can help with recovery. Our staff guides patients through personalized exercise and education plans to help them regain strength and promote a healthy heart.
Patients and their loved ones can come together to hear from experts and gain tips and strategies for managing heart failure.
Our financial navigators can answer patients' questions about medical expenses and help connect patients to resources they may need.
We are available 24/7 to answer your questions and discuss patient referrals. Please contact our on-call advanced heart failure nurse practitioner at 858-939-4CHF (4243).
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"I care for the complexities of the heart with compassion, understanding and the trained hands of experience."
"The Sharp Experience for me is about keeping people healthy so they can do what they love and enjoy a fulfilling life."