SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — When 63-year-old cardiac patient Tom Rafalko of Scranton found out a few months ago he had three heart blockages, his doctor delivered some other sobering news. “He said my heart wasn’t strong enough to go through another bypass surgery.”
Mr. Rafalko, who underwent bypass surgery about 15 years ago, feared he was now out of options to receive stents that could clear those life-threatening blockages. “You know, I don’t know how much time I’m going to have here.”
Tom also didn’t know about a device called the Impella which is the world’s smallest heart pump. “This is actually a fantastic change in what we are able to do with patients,” said Interventional Cardiologist Sridhar Sampath Kumar, M.D. of Great Valley Cardiology Associates. He has used the Impella at Regional Hospital of Scranton for three years now. Inserted through a groin artery, the Impella is directed toward the aorta to help weakened heart muscles provide extra blood flow to the brain, kidneys and other vital organs while blockages are undone. “Now we are able to manage them successfully both in the setting of heart attacks as well as like Mr. Rafalko on an elective situation,” said Dr. Kumar.
Within 24 hours after undergoing the stent procedure utilizing the Impella, Mr. Rafalko was discharged and back home already feeling the improvement. “When I came home, I felt great. I wasn’t tired,” he said. Now three months since undergoing the procedure, Mr. Rafalko looks forward to mowing his lawn with little difficulty all thanks to a small heart pump that delivered big results. “It’s just a blessing that they have something like that today.”
While the stents Mr. Rafalko received remain in place, the Impella is removed after the procedure. Regional Hospital of Scranton and Wilkes-Barre General Hospital are the only two hospitals in northeastern Pennsylvania to use the Impella.