Patient Story: Vickie N. and the Impella® Heart Pump

vickienA recent Dr. Oz The Good Life blog article tells the story of Vickie N. who thought she was healthy. Her diabetes was under control and she had lost 160 pounds. Her not so secret ‘secret’ was to follow a healthy diet and exercise regularly.

So Vickie thought nothing of the sore on her foot that developed after she stepped on a stone. But the sore would not heal or go away and her leg swelled. Vickie visited her doctor, who referred her to a podiatrist. The podiatrist saw a very infected leg and told Vicki she had to have surgery immediately or her leg may need to be amputated. Vickie chose surgery.

After surgery, Vickie learned she had had a massive heart attack. Vickie was shocked. She did not have any history of heart disease, nor did she notice the signs of heart disease. The signs of heart disease can vary from person to person and often include shortness of breath, heartburn, fatigue, nausea, weakness, dizziness, and/or swelling in the feet, legs or abdomen. Vickie had felt tired and noticed that she had gained weight. She assumed her feet were swollen because she was a hairdresser and stood all day. Some signs were there—but Vickie did not notice them as signs of heart disease.

Yet Vickie’s heart was not doing well. Vickie learned her heart was pumping at only 5%. The average pumping rate or ejection fraction of the heart is 55 to 60%. With a low ejection fraction, Vickie was told she was in heart failure and needed a procedure to open up her narrowed coronary arteries. Dr. Christopherson, Chief of Cardiology at Baptist Medical Center in San Antonio, TX recommended a protected percutaneous coronary intervention (Protected PCI) procedure.

Dr. Christopherson explained the Protected PCI™ procedure is a PCI procedure performed with extra support from the Impella 2.5™ heart pump. He further explained that the Impella 2.5 heart pump would help maintain her heart’s function while the blockages in her coronary arteries were opened and stents were placed in her arteries to help them stay open. Vickie agreed to the Protected PCI procedure.

Protected PCI is recommended for hemodynamically stable patients with a combination of severe coronary artery disease, a low ejection fraction, and other conditions such as diabetes, heart failure, advanced age, peripheral vascular disease, complex lesions, history of angina, or prior surgeries.

Dr. Christopherson used the Impella 2.5 heart pump to support Vicki’s heart while he successfully placed six stents in her coronary arteries. Today, Vicki is trying to reduce the stress in her life and make the most of every day. Vickie encourages others to learn the signs of heart disease and visit the doctor if you notice any symptoms or signs of heart disease.

Next Steps:

  1. Learn more about the signs and symptoms of heart disease
  2. Learn more about the pumping capacity of the heart
  3. Learn more about Protected PCI
  4. Learn about the difference between PCI and Protected PCI
  5. Learn what to expect before, during and after the Protected PCI procedure
  6. See how the Impella 2.5 heart pump works
  7. Learn how heart disease is diagnosed
  8. Learn more about complex heart disease
  9. Read more about Vickie’s story
  10. Read more patient stories

About Impella

The Impella 2.5 system is a temporary (<6 hours) ventricular support device indicated for use during high risk percutaneous coronary interventions (PCI) performed in elective or urgent, hemodynamically stable patients with severe coronary artery disease and depressed left ventricular ejection fraction, when a heart team, including a cardiac surgeon, has determined high risk PCI is the appropriate therapeutic option. Use of the Impella 2.5 in these patients may prevent hemodynamic instability which can result from repeat episodes of reversible myocardial ischemia that occur during planned temporary coronary occlusions and may reduce peri- and post-procedural adverse events.

Protected PCI and use of the Impella 2.5 is not right for every patient. Patients may not be able to be treated with Impella if they have certain pre-existing conditions, which a cardiologist can determine, such as: severe narrowing of the heart valve, severe peripheral artery disease, clots in blood vessels, or a replacement heart valve or certain heart valve deficiencies. Additionally, use of Impella has been associated with risks, including, but not limited to valvular and vascular injury, bleeding, and limb ischemia in certain patients. Learn more about the Impella devices’ approved indications for use, as well as important safety and risk information at