Saturday, July 07, 2001

Requests for heart pour into hospital

Spokeswoman calls AbioCor 'a new hope'

By Mike Chambers
The Associated Press

        LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The hospital that put the world's first self-contained artificial heart into a patient is being swamped with calls from others who want to undergo the procedure.

        “It's a new hope,” said Linda McGinity Jackson, spokeswoman with Jewish Hospital. “This is experimental and is the first in the world.”

        The hospital said Friday that it has no estimate of the number of calls. But Ms. Jackson said they are coming from family members of people stricken with heart conditions.

        Callers were told to talk to the patients' cardiologists or Jewish Hospital's clinical coordinator.

        On Monday, Drs. Laman Gray Jr. and Robert Dowling implanted the wireless, tubeless artificial heart into a terminally ill man as part of an experiment to test the effectiveness of the device.

        The man, described only as a diabetic in his 50s with a history of heart attacks, was awake Friday, Ms. Jackson said. Earlier this week, he was able to talk to family members.

        Thousands of Americans die every year from heart failure, including more than 2,000 last year who were on waiting lists for donor hearts.

        Experts said it will take years before the device becomes widely available — and only if it proves itself in long-term use among several dozen experimental patients.

        Candidates for the surgery must be over 18, have an 80 percent chance of dying within 30 days and be ineligible for a human-heart transplant.

        Jewish Hospital is among five hospitals prepared to perform the experimental surgery with the heart, called the AbioCor. The others are Brigham & Women's and Massachusetts General in Boston, Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia, the Texas Heart Institute in Houston and the UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles.


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