Sunday, July 08, 2001

Artificial heart recipient resting comfortably

Doctors hope for 60 days of success

The Associated Press

        LOUISVILLE — The first patient to receive a self-contained artificial heart was resting comfortably on a ventilator Saturday at the hospital where the surgery was performed.

        The man, who has been described only as a diabetic in his mid- to late-50s with a history of heart attacks, was alert after being placed on the ventilator Thursday, said Jewish Hospital spokeswoman Linda McGinity Jackson.

        “Clinically, everything's going well,” Ms. McGinity Jackson said Saturday. “We're cautious. We're dealing with a gravely ill individual.”

        The man's condition has been stable since he received the soft ball-sized titanium and plastic pump Monday, and doctors remain guardedly optimistic that the experimental device will sustain him for at least 60 days.

        The man was chosen for the operation because doctors believed he had an 80 percent chance of dying within 30 days and was ineligible for a natural heart transplant.

        Drs. Laman A. Gray Jr. and Robert D. Dowling implanted the device, known as the AbioCor, along with a small battery and controller to regulate the beat, so no wires come through the skin. Earlier mechanical hearts had wires and tubes penetrating the chest to connect to a power source, which increased the risk of infection.

        Thousands die every year from heart failure, including nearly 600 last year who were on lists waiting for donor hearts.


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