Partner's Heart Pump Can Burden Their Caregiver

Partner's Heart Pump Can Burden Their Caregiver

A heart pump for someone with heart failure may come with a tradeoff: benefits for the patient, but more stress for the caregiver.

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Researchers looked at 50 heart failure patients and their caregivers after the patients received a heart pump, called a left ventricular assist device (LVAD).

In the first month after receiving the device, the patients had significant improvements in quality of life. But their caregivers reported higher levels of stress, said Julie Bidwell, of Emory University School of Nursing in Atlanta, and colleagues.

However, while caregiver stress levels rose immediately after the patients received their implants, they returned to pre-implant levels within six months.

In addition, the researchers found that the quality of the patient-caregiver relationship affected post-implant satisfaction for both.

Initially, caregivers complained of lack of time for themselves, reduced social lives and physical strain, Bidwell's team said.

When you have heart failure, your heart isn't pumping as effectively as it should. Everyday activities -- including walking, climbing stairs or carrying groceries -- can become very difficult, according to the American Heart Association.

The study was published online March 7 in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

"As cardiologists using heart pumps to support this extremely sick group of heart failure patients, we sometimes neglect the impact of our therapies on caregivers and families," journal editor-in-chief Dr. Barry London said in a journal news release.

"This clearly shows how these advanced therapies affect caregivers, and that the relationship of the patients to their caregivers can alter outcomes," he added.

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London is director of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Iowa College of Medicine.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more on heart pumps.


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