13-strong surgical team in training to implant new total artificial heart

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A 13-member surgical team from the Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Centre has completed the first phase of training to implant a new total artificial heart designed to completely replace the heart’s function while the patient waits for a heart transplant.

The Total Artificial Heart has been approved as a bridge to human heart transplant for people dying from end-stage biventricular failure. As well as having the highest bridge-to-transplant rate of any approved heart assist device in the world, the SynCardia total artificial heart is also the only device that provides immediate, safe blood flow through both ventricles. “Methodist offers 10 different cardiac support devices for our patients, but there is only one FDA-approved total artificial heart,” said Dr Matthias Loebe, transplant surgeon with the Methodist Transplant Centre in Houston.

 

A left ventricular assist device (LVAD), the most common mechanical heart pump, helps one side of the heart pump more effectively. However, when both pumping chambers of the heart – the left and right ventricles – can no longer pump enough blood to sustain the body, vital organs like the kidneys, liver and brain are starved of blood. If adequate blood flow is not restored in time, tissue may die and vital organs can suffer permanent damage.

“Our patients who need this device have no options other than an immediate heart transplant,” said Dr Brian Bruckner, cardiac surgeon at the Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Centre. “Unfortunately, there are not enough donor hearts to help everyone who needs one. The average wait time for a heart transplant for these patients is close to five months, and many patients don’t have that kind of time. Soon we’ll be able to pull an artificial heart off the shelf for them.”

During a 10-year pivotal clinical study, 79% of patients receiving the SynCardia artificial heart survived to transplant. The artificial heart has been implanted in more than 850 patients in the US, Canada and Europe. The device pumps up to 9.5 litres a minute through both ventricles. This high volume of safe blood flow helps vital organs recover faster, helping to make the patient a better transplant candidate.