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New portable artificial heart allows 'normal' lifestyle while awaiting donor

December 20, 2012 6:31pm
Good news for heart transplant patients waiting for a new donor heart: this portable artificial heart will allow a relatively normal lifestyle during the wait.
 
Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center performed its first procedure to remove a diseased heart and replace it with the SynCardia Temporary Total Artificial Heart.
 
"Historically, patients with a total artificial heart had to remain hospitalized while they waited for a transplant because they were tethered to a large machine to power the device. Today, however, this device can be powered by advanced technology small enough to fit in a backpack," Dr. Murray Kwon, an assistant professor of cardiothoracic surgery, said in a news release of the University of California at Los Angeles.
 
SynCardia's Total Artificial Heart was originally used as a permanent replacement heart, but is presently approved as a bridge to transplant for people dying from end-stage biventricular heart failure.
 
More than 1,000 implants of the Total Artificial Heart worldwide have been made, accounting for more than 270 patient-years of life.
 
With such an artificial heart, aspiring chef Chad Washington, 35, has received new hope of living a life close to normal, the University of California at Los Angeles said.
 
Washington underwent a seven-hour transplant surgery at UCLA last Oct. 29. Kwon led the operation.

Heart bridge
 
The temporary pump will act as a "bridge" until Washington receives a new donor heart, UCLA said.
 
"It sounds like a loud grandfather clock going 'tick-tock' in my chest, but it doesn't feel foreign. It's there to help," Washington said of the artificial heart.
 
"I'm so glad to be living in an age where technology is moving so fast," he added.
 
Washington, married and with a four-year-old son, suffered from heart disease since he was born, and underwent several heart-repair surgeries.
 
He has also had pacemakers and a defibrillator implanted.
 
When his heart deteriorated, he got a heart transplant in February 2012, but after six months, the donor heart started showing signs of a serious form of rejection that did not respond to therapy.
 
A transplant of a new donor heart was not an option because his body had built up antibodies that would likely attack a new heart.
 
"By removing the patient's diseased donor heart, we removed the source of his end-stage heart failure. The total artificial heart — and being off immunosuppressant medications — allows his body to recover and get ready for a heart transplant in a few months," said Dr. Ali Nsair, an assistant professor of cardiology at UCLA.
 
Dr. Mario Deng, a professor of cardiology and medical director of the UCLA Advanced Heart Failure/Mechanical Support/Heart Transplant Program, said the pump's portable energy source allows Washington to go home and resume normal activities with his family while he waits for a donor heart.
 
"This ability to be at home with family is an important element in helping the patient to maintain a positive outlook during the waiting period," Deng said.
 
Approved by the Federal Drug Administration in 2004, the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart replaces both failing heart ventricles and the four heart valves.
 
It provides a high volume of blood-flow through both ventricles, which helps to speed the recovery of vital organs and make the patient a better candidate for transplant surgery.
 
Once the total artificial heart is implanted, it is connected by two small air tubes known as "drivelines" to a large external driver that powers the heart while the patient remains hospitalized.
 
When the patient's condition stabilizes after operation, he or she can be switched over to the smaller 13.5-pound Freedom portable driver, which can be carried in a backpack.
 
This in turn would allowa patient the freedom to leave the hospital.
 
"This technology offers a lifeline for patients who are in severe heart failure and dying," said Dr. Richard Shemin, professor and chair of cardiothoracic surgery at UCLA and surgical director of the UCLA Mechanical Circulatory Support Program.
 
He noted these patients have run out of medical options and require a heart transplant, and the total artificial heart offers advantages over other devices used for mechanical support of patients awaiting a heart transplant.
 
"With the new Freedom driver for powering the device, the patients can leave the hospital, live at home and undergo rehabilitation, improving their clinical condition and quality of life as they await their transplant," he said.
 
Regimen
 
While at home, Washington will follow an exercise and nutrition plan to help him build up strength and improve his health for receiving a second donor heart.
 
"My family and I are so thankful for all of the support we've been getting from the doctors and staff here at the hospital, as well as our family and friends," Washington said. — TJD, GMA News
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