Kids Health Matters: Mechanical heart pumps

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Younger heart patients are now benefiting from the mechanical heart pumps that were once only used for older adults.

Allie Carcella's heart problems began shortly after she was born.

A nagging cough wasn't a cold, but a sign of something more serious.

Allie's mom Gina Carcella of Glenmoore, Pa. said, "She had a chest x-ray and they found out she had an enlarged heart."

Medication kept it under control until early last year when Allie worsened quickly.

She needed a new heart, but there weren't any available.

Cardiologist, Doctor Joseph Rossano says Allie became the first at Children's Hospital to go on a heart-assist device called HeartWare.

Adults have received these pumps, called L-VADs for a decade.

The first pediatric L-VAD, the Berlin Heart, only got FDA approval 4 years ago.

Dr. Rossano says "They can support the circulation very reliably."

The mechanical pumps not only keep kids alive, they usually become stronger.

"When they come in for transplant they frequently sail through," added Dr. Rossano.

One drawback to the Berlin heart is being tethered to the power supply.

Allie's HeartWare device was different - the whole device was in her body, with only a small cable leading to a portable power pack outside.

"I got to go home," says Allie.

Gina says, "She was able to work out almost as much as the rest of us."

Two months later, Allie got a new heart. And two weeks after that, she was home doing what she loves.

"I love Minecraft. I love YouTube. I want to start a YouTube channel," said Allie (smiling).

Dr. Rossano says while there is a need for more and better heart-assist devices, the ones available now have already revolutionized heart failure treatment.

Copyright © 2022 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.