Removing large heart blockages without major surgery

Doctors at the University of Miami are using a newly approved device to make risky repairs to damaged hearts without surgery.
Carl Alessi, 63, of Hutchinson Island, Florida was rushed to UM Hospital in June with severe heart damage.
"I was only pumping 10 percent of what a normal person pumps," Alessi said. "It was really my only chance at life, I feel."

Bypass surgery was not an option.

Alessi needed balloon angioplasty to open three severe blockages, but Dr. William O'Neill said this could be risky.

"The heart doesn't work well at all and the blood pressure can drop, and people can develop severe complications," O'Neill said.

That is where the pen-sized Impella device comes in.

Doctors place the device into the heart through a blood vessel in the groin to assist with pumping, allowing O'Neill to safely open the three blockages.

During the procedure on June 30, Alessi became the first patient in Florida to use the Impella.
"The device sits inside the heart, and then a very fast rotary device basically pulls blood out like a propeller and pulls it out of the heart and sends it out to the body," O'Neill said.

Alessi was discharged from the hospital two days later.

"I feel absolutely wonderful, much stronger than I did even months before the operation," Alessi said.