- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 4, 2006

RICHMOND — Surgeons at Virginia Commonwealth University yesterday said they have implanted an artificial heart into a man suffering from end-stage heart failure.

The CardioWest device is a temporary replacement for the man’s damaged heart while he awaits a donor organ to become available for transplant. University officials are withholding his identity at his family’s request but said he is in his 50s and lives in Virginia.

Cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Vigneshwar V. Kasirajan led the team that conducted the seven-hour procedure Monday at the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Medical Center.

The patient was in stable condition in the intensive care unit of the hospital’s Pauley Heart Center, university officials said.

The procedure was VCU Medical Center’s first totally artificial heart transplant and the first performed on the East Coast, university physicians said at a press conference.

The artificial heart replaces the patient’s failed left and right ventricles and all the heart’s valves, said Dr. Michael Hess, director of VCU’s Advanced Heart Failure Program.

The heart’s right ventricle pumps the blood to the lungs to be reoxygenated; the left ventricle pumps blood throughout the body.

Although it is not clear how long the man will have to wait until he receives a new heart, the device can keep his blood pumping for more than a year and improve his chances of survival after his transplant, Dr. Hess said.

Complications of the implantation can include infection and stroke, Dr. Hess said.

After recovering from the surgery, the man is expected to be able to walk and otherwise gain strength to prepare for a transplant, the VCU physicians said.

CardioWest is an updated version of the Jarvik-7 artificial heart, technology that dates to the mid-1980s, said Don Isaacs, a spokesman with CardioWest developer SynCardia Systems Inc., based in Tucson, Ariz.

In October 2004, the Food and Drug Administration approved CardioWest as the only totally artificial heart to keep transplant candidates with end-stage heart failure alive as they await new organs.

The device is powered by a pneumatic pump, which also monitors the heart’s performance, Mr. Isaacs said.

The implantation procedure has been performed more than 600 times worldwide; the first were done at the University Medical Center in Tucson, Mr. Isaacs said.

VCU Medical Center is one of three U.S. hospitals certified to implant the $98,500 CardioWest device, Mr. Isaacs said. The others are the Tucson center and Cleveland Clinic, which performed its first implantation last year.

One hospital in Canada and six in Europe also are certified to perform the procedure, and the company expects 18 other centers to gain certification by the end of the year.

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