- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 21, 2005

BALTIMORE — University of Maryland Medical Center surgeons said they have moved one step closer to developing the perfect heart pump after implanting the device into a 40-year-old Baltimore man.

“I feel absolutely marvelous,” said a smiling Shawn Henson, the first patient to receive the newly designed heart pump.

“I’m almost back to my old self,” said Mr. Henson, who had the device implanted July 14 and gave a thumbs up Friday at a press conference at the hospital.

The pump, called VentrAssist, is a third-generation device, developed by Ventracor, an Australian company, and is designed to help the heart’s main pumping chamber, the left ventricle.

First-generation pumps are large devices that mimic the pulsating action of the natural heart with moving parts that could wear out. A second-generation Jarvik 2000 pump is a thumb-sized device designed to last 10 years.

“It functions in a way that no other pump does,” Dr. Bartley P. Griffith, chief of the Division of Cardiac Surgery at the University of Maryland Medical Center, said of the VentrAssist. “It has only one moving part and has indefinite durability. There is nothing that can wear out.”

He said it is another step toward providing the perfect heart pump.

The pump is intended to help patients who need long-term heart assistance. Surgeons also hope the pump can be used as a “bridge” for patients awaiting transplants.

Dr. Erika D. Feller, a cardiologist at the center, said the pump is being tested on patients who have weakened hearts and are too sick to wait for transplants. She said the surgery was not as tough on patients as with other devices. Mr. Henson’s surgery took four to five hours.

Dr. Feller said the donor pool is “static,” and blood pumps help patients get to the transplant stage.

Dr. Griffith said a second patient received the new heart pump Thursday night. No details were provided about that patient.

The two Maryland patients are part of a five-center, 10-patient pilot study of the pump, which has been implanted in more than 30 patients in Australia, New Zealand and Europe.

“The VentrAssist pumps the same volume of blood as larger pumps, but its small size — it weighs 10 ounces and measures 2.5 inches in diameter — takes up very little space in the abdomen, potentially making it useful for smaller adults, and even children,” Dr. Griffith said.

Mr. Henson said he looks forward to going back to work at McCormick and Company Inc., where he works as a supervisor.

He also said he would like to go on his honeymoon to Las Vegas with his wife, who sat cheerfully by his side.

He said he was just two days away from making the trip when he became sick.

Other participants in the U.S. pilot study include centers at the Cleveland Clinic, Columbia University, the University of Minnesota and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

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