Heart failure, what does it mean? For 43-year-old Melissa Frank of Flint it means relying on medications and technology placed right in her heart in order to stay healthy. Melissa is not alone; heart failure is a serious condition that affects about 5.8 million people in the United States. For some people it means their heart cannot pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs, for others it means their heart cannot fill with enough blood, and some people even have both issues.
When lifestyle changes and medicines cannot control heart failure, medical procedures or surgery may be necessary. One treatment option is cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT). This is a pacemaker that coordinates the electrical signaling between the heart’s right and left ventricles. This device is what Melissa had implanted in mid-March by McLaren Electrophysiologist Abdul Alawwa, M.D. She was one of the first patients to receive the latest CRT technology available. This year Dr. Alawwa was the first specialist in the area to begin using the Quartet® Quadripolar pacing technology from St. Jude Medical.
“This new device has four electrodes, older technology only had one or two. It also offers an unprecedented 10 pacing configurations,” states Dr. Alawwa. “This innovative system enables left ventricular pacing exactly where it needs to be without compromising the stability of the leads. This allows for better management of heart failure patients because it can be tailored to that person.”
Melissa was on medications for her heart, including blood pressure medicine for over six years, when the ability of her left ventricle to pump blood to the rest of her body, called the ejection fraction (EF), fell to 25 percent. A normal EF is 55 percent. With medicines alone no longer working she had a pacemaker implanted in 2011 at another facility. Unfortunately, there were many complications and it had to be removed after only two months. Her cardiologist then referred her to Dr. Alawwa. She received her new CRT on March 16, 2012.
“I am doing so well already, there were no complications or bad experiences like I had before,” states Melissa. “I was told it could take me up to six months to feel the full benefit to my body but my legs no longer ache, my hands and fingers do not go numb like they did before, and even my friends say my color started looking better right after the procedure.”
Unlike other CRT pacemakers the quadripolar technology has more pacing options, or ways to regulate the electrical impulses of the heart, and it is less likely to interfere with the phrenic nerve which controls the diaphragm.
As a mother of three, Melissa wants to be able to keep up with her children but she is also looking to the future.
“With this new technology there is even hope that over time this device may help my heart muscle gain some of its strength back,” states Melissa. “I did my research and I feel confident in it and Dr. Alawwa. I plan on being around to see grandkids.”