- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 22, 2002

BALTIMORE A Montgomery County man being kept alive by a cork-sized, experimental pump implanted in his heart is expected to return home soon to await a transplant.
Woodrow Snelson, 63, will become the first person in the country with the Jarvik 2000 pump to go home, his doctors say.
Mr. Snelson, 63, received the pump Sept. 6 at the University of Maryland Medical Center as part of an ongoing U.S. Food and Drug Administration feasibility study. Doctors said Thursday that he should be able to return to his Burtonsville home within a week.
Of the nearly 30 U.S. patients who have received the pump, Mr. Snelson will be the first to be allowed to leave the hospital by the FDA, said Dr. Robert Jarvik, the artificial-heart pioneer who invented the pump.
An FDA spokeswoman declined to comment on the Jarvik 2000, but said patients with similar VADs ventricular assist devices have been allowed to return home after surgery.
The Jarvik is the smallest, most sophisticated pump now being used to help a weakened heart pump blood, said Dr. Bartley Griffith, the lead cardiac surgeon at the University of Maryland Medical Center.
"The pump is so slick, it's almost embarrassing," Dr. Griffith said. "This is a far simpler solution to propelling blood than we've had previously. It's far more refined."
The pump is the size of a wine cork and fits inside the heart's left ventricle, the main pumping chamber. When the heart no longer can pump properly, the tiny turbine takes over the ventricle's work and pushes oxygenated blood throughout the body.
The pump has a speed-control device on a small, external battery pack that Mr. Snelson can use to adjust the flow of blood. For instance, if he feels short of breath while walking up the stairs, he can increase the speed of blood flow, Dr. Griffith said.
Mr. Snelson will be able to exercise, go to the store and perform other normal activities while he waits for a donor heart, Dr. Griffith said. The device is designed to run for as long as a decade.
Mr. Snelson, whose major heart attack in 1989 was followed by triple-bypass surgery, says he has felt great since receiving the pump. He plans to return to work as a computer consultant and finish putting the last touches on his retirement home.
"I'm looking forward to sitting on my porch with my feet kicked up, watching the squirrels till I get bored," he said. "This has opened a whole other world for me."
Although American patients only now are being allowed to go home after receiving the pump, patients in Europe have been discharged after surgery for about two years, Dr. Jarvik said.
The device is often used in Europe as a permanent supplement to a diseased heart, not as a temporary bridge to keep a patient alive while waiting for a transplant.
Specialists "are betting" that some patients one day will rely on the Jarvik pump as a permanent heart supplement, Dr. Griffith said. "We think the device will run for years."
For now, the FDA has approved only a relative few pumps to be used as a bridge to a transplanted heart, Dr. Griffith said.
Scientists have been working on a variety of devices to assist or even replace the heart, and they are at varying stages of development and testing.
Other VADs include the HeartMate Left Ventricular Assist System, used in about 3,000 patients worldwide and roughly the size of a portable CD player; the Novacor; and the MicroMed DeBakey.

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