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Developing implantable devices to improve heart health

Developing implantable devices to improve heart health
Developing implantable devices to improve heart health
Richard Smalling, MD, PhD; James D. Woods Distinguished Chair in Cardiovascular Medicine; Professor and Director in the Division of Interventional Cardiovascular Medicine; Department of Internal Medicine; McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston

Artificial hearts can save lives for patients with end-stage heart failure, but they often bring their own life-threatening complications, such as a risk of stroke, infection, or rehospitalization.

UTHealth Houston cardiologist Richard Smalling, MD, PhD, hopes to change that with a device he has developed after nearly two decades of work, supported in part by contributions from the Bill Stewart family.

The fully implantable TORVAD left ventricular assist device pumps at a slower rotation speed that creates less blood trauma than other pumps and beats in synchrony with a patient’s heart, which may reduce the risk of complications to help patients live longer, healthier lives.

The device won a national competition hosted by the American College of Cardiology and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute in 2022.

“One of the most rewarding aspects of academic medicine is the ability to observe difficult medical problems in patients without any available solution and return to our laboratory to develop a potential answer,” says Smalling. “The final benefit of that process is to test the potential solution in a clinical trial and prove that it not only works but provides better patient outcomes and, potentially, a longer survival.”

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