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A new ventricular assist device as a bridge for heart transplantation

HUS Heart and Lung Center has installed the first third-generation HeartMate 3 left ventricular assist devices.

Hoitaja juttelemassa potilaalle

Heart disease manifests itself unexpectedly

​In April, 64-year-old Andrei Podgoretskii from Tampere received Finland’s first HeartMate 3 left ventricular assist device. Until a couple of years ago, Podgoretskii was basically healthy and had no inkling that there would be something wrong with his heart.

Podgoretskii suffered a myocardial infarction in September 2017. 

“Before that, I was in good general health, I don’t smoke, and I don’t drink alcohol. I started having back pains, but I thought it was just normal pain.”

For Podgoretskii, his back pains started to become really intense. He had already booked an appointment to see an orthopedist, but a female friend of his thought it would be better to go straight to the emergency clinic. Once there, it took half an hour and Podgoretskii was already undergoing percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty, after which he had been resuscitated twice.

Podgoretskii also had a cardiac pacemaker put in, and he had regular appointments at the hospital. However, his condition kept deteriorating all the time. In July last year, investigations were began to examine Podgoretskii for a heart transplant. 

“In November, I was in Meilahti for the first time. Due to increased pulmonary artery pressure, a heart transplant was impossible, and the pressure did not decrease even with medication. According to the physician, the only route to a heart transplant is with the help of a ventricular assist device.”

According to Podgoretskii, the decision to install a ventricular assist device was difficult for him, but nevertheless clear. Already in a week, his quality of life with the ventricular assist device has improved considerably. Now Podgoretskii is waiting for a heart transplant and he is hopeful about the future.

“All the treatment here has been exceptionally good.”

Quality of life was improved instantly

68-year-old Matti Tervonen from Raahe was Finland’s second recipient of the HeartMate 3 left ventricular assist device.

In 2010, Tervonen was skiing up north when he suffered a myocardial infarction. Tervonen’s son took him to the hospital, where Tervonen was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy. Until the end of January this year, Tervonen had coped with the illness, but then his condition began to deteriorate at a rapid pace.

Tervonen’s physician in Oulu tried to treat him to improve his condition but, eventually, Tervonen was referred to Meilahti. As soon as he arrived in Meilahti, it was determined that Tervonen should be operated on as soon as possible. However, his condition deteriorated so much before the day of the surgery that Tervonen spent the last couple of days on a heart-lung machine waiting for the surgery. 

“I feel so good now. The time before coming here, last fall and winter, I experienced a lack of oxygen in a comprehensive way. Now you remember again how good it is to breathe in clean air.”

Tervonen’s hope now is to get to go home for Easter. 

“A big thank you to the hospital and the personnel here who are so decent and kind. Someone stroked my hand in the operating room and kept telling me that there was nothing to worry about. I have learned to appreciate the physicians especially.”

Now Podgoretskii and Tervonen are waiting for a heart transplant with their new ventricular assist devices. Both have their sights on the future and good expectations for an improvement in their quality of life. 

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