Man Gets Self-Contained Artificial Heart
In a seven-hour operation Monday, an unnamed man with only days to live received the "first totally implantable, permanent" artificial replacement heart, the Washington Post reports. University of Louisville surgeons Laman Gray and Robert Dowling removed the patient's dying heart at Jewish Hospital in Louisville and implanted a mechanical heart -- the AbioCor -- manufactured by Danvers, Mass.-based Abiomed Inc. (Gugliotta, Washington Post, 7/4). The device, powered by an external battery that patients can attach to a belt, represents the "first" self-contained artificial heart that does not require connections through the skin. The "yo-yo-shaped" pump, made of titanium and plastic, weighs less than two pounds (Washington Post, 7/4). During the operation, surgeons removed most of the patient's diseased heart and attached the Abiocor to parts of the left and right atria and to the aorta (Altman, New York Times, 7/4). Surgeons said that the patient, who is in his mid-to late 50s, was on the "brink of death" from heart failure and may now live two months or longer. The man has also suffered from chronic kidney failure and diabetes and has had several heart attacks, as well as coronary bypass surgery in 1992 (Baltimore Sun, 7/5). Gray said that the patient, in "as dire shape as you can ever have anybody in," had no other option (Cimons, Los Angeles Times, 7/5). On Wednesday, doctors said that the patient's recovery had "vastly exceeded" expectations and "expressed optimism" that he could return to daily activities, although they cautioned that a "complication could occur at any time" (Altman, New York Times, 7/5). Doctors also reported that the man had recovered some kidney function and said that they planned to "wean" him from a ventilator. "Our hope is that he lives for months, or years," Dowling said (Chamber, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 7/5).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.