findings home/archives       contact us       other AHC publications   

November 2009 Issue

Thanks to a minimally invasive catheter, first used in Cincinnati by UC Health physicians, heart attack patient Katrina Williams can now look forward to spending time at home with daughter Anetress Reese (left).
RSS feed

Device Prevents 'Natural Disaster'

By Katie Pence
Published November 2009

Katrina Williams says her name suits her just fine.

“I’m like Hurricane Katrina: a natural disaster,” she says, chuckling.

Williams, 60, was rushed to UC  Health University Hospital in August with a massive heart attack. This follows a life filled with health problems including bouts with amnesia, brain aneurysms—two occurring at the same time—and a burst aorta.

“I’ve been through a lot,” she says. “But I’m still here and happy to be alive.”

One late evening at the end of August, after suffering through hours of what was thought to be indigestion, Williams finally asked her daughter Anetress “Nita” Reese to phone for an ambulance.

“I knew something was wrong at that point,” Reese says. “My mom is not one to complain or run to the doctor unless something is really wrong.”

Williams’ massive heart attack, with 100 percent blockage in one of the heart’s major arteries, was confirmed at the hospital.

UC Health interventional cardiologists were able to stent the artery, allowing blood to flow once again, but because of the heart attack, Williams’ cardiac muscle was too weak to pump adequate blood supply to the rest of her body. This is known as cardiogenic shock.

Williams’ blood pressure dropped, and Massoud Leesar, MD, a cardiologist with UC Health, implanted the Impella 2.5 device—a minimally invasive catheter designed to pump blood to the aorta and reduce the heart’s workload and oxygen consumption.

This device is fairly new to the Tristate. University Hospital was the first health facility in Cincinnati to use the Impella device in May 2009.

“Her heart was very weak, and her blood pressure had dropped drastically,” says Leesar, director of the interventional program at University Hospital, adding that without the Impella device, the team’s options would have run out.

“She wouldn’t have made it without something to keep her arteries open and her heart pumping.”
Lessar says there are two options available to control blood pressure when the heart muscle cannot pump enough blood: the Impella device or the intra-aortic balloon pump.

With an intra-aortic balloon pump, a balloon is placed into an artery via catheter, usually in the groin, which leads to the aorta—the largest artery in the body.

The catheter is connected to a computer that controls inflation, deflation, timing and pressure, so that the balloon will inflate when the heart muscle relaxes and deflate just before the heart pumps again.

The Impella—a circulatory assist device—is implanted in the same way but has a miniature pump that pushes 2.5 liters of freshly oxygenated blood from the left ventricle of the heart into the aorta to maintain circulatory support in patients with severely limited function. 

“This device allows us to do high-risk interventions for patients while vastly eliminating stress on their hearts,” Leesar says.

“Because of the burst aorta Ms. Williams experienced several years ago, the balloon pump was not a viable option for us.”

Williams was on the device for five days—a record at University Hospital, says Leesar.

“This allowed her heart to rest and aided in the recovery process,” he says.

Although Williams says she doesn’t remember much about her close call, she knows that she’s recovering and settling back into life with her family.

“I’m so lucky, and I have Dr. Leesar and the team at University Hospital to thank,” she says. “I consider myself a walking testimony to the quality care being provided at University Hospital.”

Reese also says she’s thankful to have her mom back at home.

“She’s a pretty incredible lady,” Reese says. “I don’t know what I would do without her.”

 back to list | back to top