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AlphaVac: The New Heart Surgery Technology Saving Lives

When doctors discovered an eight-centimeter blood clot in Kimberly Marchant’s chest, her surgeon knew he had a solution. Dr. Eric Peck, Cardiothoracic Surgeon at Dignity Health Medical Group — Bakersfield, performed a procedure at Memorial Hospital to remove the clot with an advanced technology called AlphaVac.

AlphaVac is an FDA approved mechanical aspiration device, where a large tube is inserted into the vein in either the groin or the neck. Simultaneously, an ultrasound probe is inserted into the stomach via the esophagus. With ultrasound imagery to guide them, surgeons advance the tube to the heart chambers where the mass is located, apply suction, and the mass is safely removed.

This procedure benefits patients because it avoids open heart surgery and all of the after-effects associated with it (e.g. extreme pain, time in hospital, recovery time). It also offers a solution for patients with large masses; ones which cannot be removed using the typical catheters employed when performing an angiogram. Besides clots, AlphaVac can address infections on the heart valves as well as tumors that develop within the heart chambers.

Patient-First Focus on Care

Currently, Memorial Hospital is the only hospital performing this procedure in Kern County. Having the AlphaVac technology available allows Bakersfield residents to seek care closer to home.

“It certainly provides a new therapy that wasn't available here, to get patients healthy and get them back to their lives in a quicker fashion and less interruption,” states Dr. Peck. “But, for those patients who may have been required in the past to go out of town to get this type of treatment, now they can stay here with the support of their family and their community.”

Such was the case for Marchant, who actually works as a trauma site coordinator in the community. She hadn’t been feeling herself—and her colleagues took note, suggesting she see a cardiologist based on her symptoms. Upon thorough testing and medication to attempt to shrink the clot, Marchant’s cardiology group referred her to Dr. Peck. After going over her case, Dr. Peck suggested the AlphaVac procedure as a minimally-invasive option. She agreed almost immediately.

“I don't want to be off work for three months. I don't want to not be able to drive for two months. And there was a lot involved in my life to have me down for that amount of time. I just couldn't even fathom it. So, I was on board a hundred percent,” she shares.

A Success Story, All Around

Marchant’s procedure went exceptionally well. She was able to return home with no pain and get back to her daily routine almost immediately. One significant improvement Marchant noticed right away was that she no longer felt short of breath when exerting herself. Overall, she found it to be a positive experience and attributes much of it to Dr. Peck.

“Any concerns or any anxieties that I had; Dr. Peck was right there. He came in and checked on me, made sure I was okay and if I needed anything. I think he has that patience within him to be able to listen to people and really hear them.”

From his perspective, Dr. Peck and his team just want what’s best for patients—whether that means having to perform open heart surgery due to certain circumstances or going the AlphaVac route.

“We're always evolving care here. We're always advancing our knowledge of new technologies and how to provide the best quality care to our patients and minimize the impact on their lives. I'm so thankful to Kimberly that she put her trust in us, knowing this was a new procedure. The team we have is an excellent team. I want patients to know we're here for them and we're going to do everything we can to get them better and keep them at home with their families,” he assures.

To learn more about cardiac services at Memorial Hospital’s Sarvanand Heart and Brain Center, click here.