Study: Heart pumps frequently used incorrectly

A new study of heart pumps, or ventricular assist devices (VADs), has found that while they can save lives, they are sometimes not used appropriately or on the correct patients.

The devices, which are meant to treat heart failure, are used in two major groups. One group needed a VAD to treat chronic heart failure, and the other group had heart failure after a coronary bypass or valve surgery. The study found that 51.6 percent of the chronic heart failure patients were still alive a year after implantation, compared with 30.8 percent of the post-surgical ones. Many of the surgery patients never even made it out of the hospital.

Overall, the researchers found two major factors that lowered the survival rate. In some cases, the devices were implanted in patients that were too sick to survive anyway, and in others, the devices were implanted at a hospital where they didn't have much experience with VADs. Survival rates were much higher at clinics and hospitals where they had a steady flow of patients with VADs.

To learn more about the study:
- read this New York Times piece