The Spectrum Health Frederik Meijer Heart & Vascular Institute in Grand Rapids announced today that it has received advanced certification for ventricular assist devices from the Joint Commission, the national quality organization that accredits hospitals in the United States.

VADs are surgically implanted and help the heart pump blood from the main pumping chamber of the heart (the left ventricle) to the rest of the body.

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The certification allows HVI physicians to use VADs to help heart failure patients in two ways: as a “bridge” to assist the circulation of a patient awaiting a heart transplant, or as a “destination” device to improve the circulation and quality of life for a patient who doesn’t meet the criteria for a heart transplant.

“With VAD approval and our recent transplant certification we now offer all cardiovascular services in Grand Rapids,” said Robert Hooker, a cardiothoracic surgeon who was instrumental in establishing the program at FMHVI. “We no longer have to refer patients to other institutions for their care, it can all be done here.”

The FMHVI has been implanting VADs used as bridge devices for patients awaiting transplants through its heart transplant program. Now it can provide the benefit of a VAD to patients who are not candidates for transplantation.

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“We are very pleased with this certification because it recognizes our VAD program as one of excellence and quality,” said Michael Dickinson, M.D., medical director of the FMHVI heart failure program. “It allows us to provide another critical service to the people of West Michigan.”

Patients may need a VAD if they have severe heart failure that cannot be controlled with medicine or a special pacemaker. These pumps may be implanted in the body or connected to a pump outside the body. While this device can greatly improve a patient’s quality of life and mobility, not every patient with severe heart failure is a good candidate.

The Joint Commission is an independent organization that accredits and certifies more than 18,000 health care organizations and programs in the United States. Joint Commission accreditation and certification is recognized nationwide as a symbol of quality that reflects an organization’s commitment to meeting set performance standards.

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Spectrum Health is a not-for-profit health system in West Michigan offering a full continuum of care through the Spectrum Health Hospital Group, which includes nine hospitals and 180 service sites; the Spectrum Health Medical Group and West Michigan Heart, physician groups totaling more than 600 providers; and Priority Health, a health plan with 625,000 members. Spectrum Health is West Michigan’s largest employer with more than 17,700 employees. The organization provided $115.9 million in community benefit during its 2010 fiscal year.