Benton Man Receives First Heartware Implant in Arkansas

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (News release) - The first person in Arkansas to receive the world’s smallest heart pump is a 77-year-old patient of CHI St. Vincent Heart Institute. Harold Chronister, of Benton, credits his family for the decision to undergo surgery to implant the Medtronic HeartWare HVAD, which is intended to make his heart healthier and extend his life. 

Dr. Thurston Bauer of CHI St. Vincent Heart Institute made Arkansas history earlier this month when he implanted the HeartWare HVAD, a left ventricular assist device, in Chronister’s heart. The HVAD is the world’s smallest, commercially available, left ventricular assist device. Left ventricular assist devices, or LVADs, are used to help the heart pump and increase the amount of blood that circulates through the body.

Chronister is one of the more than 6 million Americans living with heart failure. When Dr. Muhammed Waqas, heart failure specialist with CHI St. Vincent, recommended that Chronister consider an LVAD, at first the retired Alcoa machinist was hesitant.

“I thought about it for three weeks, whether I should have this surgery, but finally my family came to me and told me they wanted me to do it,” said Chronister, who underwent surgery in early January at CHI St. Vincent Infirmary in Little Rock. “I talked to each one of them and decided it was best to do it because I can be with them three or four more years. If I didn’t have it, I wasn’t going to have six months.”

LVAD therapy has been demonstrated to extend life, augment cardiac function and improve quality of life for patients who may no longer benefit from earlier stage treatment options. Heart failure is a progressive condition that occurs when the heart is unable to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs. Common symptoms include fatigue and shortness of breath.

“Many people with advanced heart failure have few remaining medical options,” Bauer said. “The HVAD, the smallest device of its type that’s commercially available, is an alternative now available for treating this debilitating disease. We encourage patients to discuss all their options with their cardiologist and cardiovascular surgeon to determine the appropriate treatment. Fortunately, for Mr. Chronister, the HVAD made sense because of its size, the type of surgery and anticipated recovery time.”

CHI St. Vincent Heart Institute was recently named a Joint Commission Certified Center of Excellence for LVAD program. The Center of Excellence achievement recognizes CHI St. Vincent as an organization that meets rigorous standards to support adults with heart failure.

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