Impella heart pump is design to pump 4 liters of blood a minute - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Impella heart pump is design to pump 4 liters of blood a minute

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An Arizona man is helping make history at Scripps Hospital in La Jolla, California.

Bill Gates is one of the first people on the West Coast to be treated with the newest version of the world's smallest heart pump.

Gates had survived a heart bypass surgery 11 years ago, three heart attacks and the amputation of his leg, but he was beginning to lose hope that his clogged arteries could be properly repaired.

When he heard about the minimally invasive procedure being offered by cardiologists at Scripps Green in La Jolla, he was overjoyed.

"I figured it was the beginning of the end. Now, I have life know?" Gates says.

The Impella heart pump is a device that received clearance last month from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and was approved to maintain blood flow during surgery.

"We expect this to be a significant tool in helping more patients. High-risk patients with blocked arteries are now able to undergo arterial repair without major surgery," says Dr. Paul Teirstein, who led the Scripps heart care team.

"The new Impella CP makes a procedure that could be very risky for a patient with a weakened heart," says Dr. Teirstein.

The Impella pump is inserted via catheter through a tiny incision in the patient's femoral artery and is then moved into position so that it will pump large quantities of blood through the body, essentially taking over the pumping action of the patient's heart.

"There are many different type of ventricular assist devices on the market now, but these are all so large that they require surgery to be implanted," said Teirstein. "The Impella CP device is so tiny that it does not need invasive surgery to be inserted into the patient."

Designed to pump up to four liters of blood per minute through a patient's circulatory system, the catheter-delivered device allows the heart to rest while repairs are made to damaged arteries.

Previous versions of the heart pump could provide only about 2.5 liters of blood-flow per minute.