National News

Hospital offers temporary, artificial heart for transplant candidates

Posted June 11, 2018 11:10 a.m. EDT

— A marvel of modern medicine is being unveiled in the mid-state.

Those in need of a heart transplant, now have the option to get an artificial one, while they wait on the donor list.

A Total Artificial Heart can temporarily replace a human heart for up to two years, which allows the patient to live at home while they wait for a transplant to become available.

Surgeries using these artificial hearts could start this month.

"There are, unfortunately, a subset of patients dying before their time," said Dr. Ashok Babu M.D., the cardiac surgical director with St. Thomas Health. "You can liken it to a heart transplant. We remove the patient's entire heart and put a new one in."

The artificial heart replaces both lower chambers of the heart, and the four heart valves. There are two sizes, which fit most patients.

The Total Artificial Heart increases chances of survival and allows for an enhanced quality of life. The ideal candidate is someone in their 50s or younger.

"In a patient where both sides of the heart that have failed, this is really their only good option to try to get out of the hospital, recover, and come back for a heart transplant," said Dr. Babu. "The longer the patients are in the hospital, the more risks there are of depression."

The Total Artificial Heart is connected to an external machine called a driver, which pumps and monitors the device.

St. Thomas is the first hospital in the state of Tennessee to offer the Total Artificial Heart.

SynCardia, the company that manufactures the Total Artificial Heart, has offered the device in clinical use for more than 35 years.

It is the most widely used and extensively studied artificial heart in the world.