Health briefs: Local doctor part of heart pump team

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Jeff Teuteberg, medical director of the UPMC Artficial Heart Program, has co-authored the first guidelines for the use of the life-saving surgically implanted portable pumps known as ventricular assist devices. The use of VADs has expanded greatly and the International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation recently issued directions for the selection, implantation and management of the devices.

VADs take the blood from a weakened heart and pump it to the body and vital organs. In a UPMC news release, Dr. Teuteberg said VADs have become smaller and more reliable in recent years, and it is important to share evidence-based guidelines. They appear in the February issue of the Journal of Heart and Lung Transplantation.

Dr. Teuteberg is an assistant professor of medicine and a member of the Heart Failure/Transplant division of the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute, where he specializes in the care of patients with advanced cardiomyopathies, cardiac transplantation and ventricular assist devices. The other co-authors of the guidelines are David Feldman, M.D., Ph.D., of the Minneapolis Heart Institute; and Salpy Pamboukian, M.D., M.S.P.H., of the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Safar Award winner

The American Heart Association, Allegheny Division has named Ronald V. Pellegrini, M.D., a cardiothoracic surgeon from the West Penn Allegheny Health System Cardiovascular Institute at Forbes Regional Hospital, recipient of the 2013 Peter J. Safar Pulse of Pittsburgh Award. The award will be presented at the 2013 Pittsburgh Heart Ball on Feb. 23 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

Dr. Pellegrini's career has spanned 40 years in Western Pennsylvania, helping to advance cardiac surgery at Mercy Hospital, the University of Pittsburgh and West Penn Allegheny's Forbes Regional Hospital. His accomplishments include advancements in mitral valve surgery and the founding of Three Rivers Cardiac Institute, which expanded cardiac surgery services in the region.

Brain-computer research

Details about the technology that allowed a man paralyzed below the shoulders to control the movements of a character on a computer with just his thoughts can now be found online in the international, peer-reviewed and open-access journal, PLOS ONE. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and UPMC describe how an array of electrodes was implanted on top of the brain of Tim Hemmes, in a place that controlled right arm and hand movement. Wires from the device were placed under the skin, emerging from the chest, where they could connect to computer cables.

The brain-computer interface technology allowed Mr. Hemmes, after a few weeks, to guide a ball on the computer screen on a 3-dimensional display. Other BCI technology is being tested. For information about participating in similar trials, call research coordinator Debbie Harrington at 412-383-1355.

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