Tiny new heart pump makes risky surgery less dangerous

NATIONWIDE (NBC) - 69-year-old Malcolm Clarrissimeaux has several blocked arteries near his heart.

Doctors told him he was a primary candidate for open-heart surgery, but Clarrissimeauux would have none of it.

He didn't want doctors cracking open his chest in traditional fashion.

"I believe in doing everything as non-invasive as you can," Clarrissimeaux explained.

Clarrissimeaux turned to Doctor Robert Stoler at Baylor Medical Center in Dallas.

Stoler is using a new device called "Impella" developed by Abiomed of Danvers, Massachusetts.

Impella is the world's smallest heart pump.

The device is so small, it is threaded up through an artery directly into the heart.

"It helps to continue blood flow to the vital organs and to the body in the event that the patient's heart would start to fail," Dr. Stoler explained.

With the pump inserted into Clarrissimeaux's heart, Stoler uses traditional balloon angioplasty and stents to clear several blockages.

The entire procedure takes less than two hours, and Clarrissimeaux will go home the next day.

Open-heart surgery would have kept him in the hospital for a week.

"I anticipate that after having this fixed, he be able to do essentially whatever he wants," Stoler said.

Clarrissimeaux already has a plan.

"You know, just continue on with life," he said.