Last updated on April 21, 2014 at 1:20 EDT

Sentara Heart Hospital Offers Total Artificial Heart

March 6, 2012

First patient successfully receives donor heart. Second patient on Freedom Driver.

NORFOLK, Va., March 6, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Living without a heart. What was once only a far off concept has now become a reality for advanced heart failure patients in need of more time to await a heart transplant.

(Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20120306/DC65557)

Physicians at Sentara Heart Hospital have begun offering the Total Artificial Heart (TAH) as the latest advancement in its heart transplant program. TAH is a newly approved treatment for advanced heart failure patients and is used as a bridge for patients awaiting a heart transplant.

The Total Artificial Heart is produced by Syncardia and is the first device of its kind to receive FDA approval. It is – as the name suggests – a device that is implanted in place of the human heart in order to keep blood pumping through the body. This technology goes beyond devices and procedures that have come before, including pacemakers, Ventricular Assist Devices, and heart valve replacement. What makes the Total Artificial Heart different from devices that have come before is the fact that it literally replaces the human heart and its pumping capability.

“Our goal with Total Artificial Heart patients is to help keep them as strong and healthy as possible while awaiting a heart transplant,” explains Dr. Michael McGrath, a cardiac surgeon at Sentara Heart Hospital. “Replacing the diseased heart with the Total Artificial Heart helps keep the body functioning close to normal.” In other words, there is less chance of other complications such as organ failure while patients await a transplant.

The TAH allows a patient with advanced heart failure the time needed to await a donor organ. Because of the extreme nature of this treatment, TAH patients are placed higher on the transplant list.

There are currently less than 20 approved TAH programs in the country. Sentara Heart Hospital received approval and implanted its first TAH in October of 2011. That first patient was on the TAH for several weeks before successfully being transplanted with a donor heart in January.

The second TAH patient at Sentara is John Martino, a 63-year-old husband, father of two and grandfather of four. After years of declining heart health, Martino had a heart valve replaced and suffered with atrial fibrillation. Martino had surgery on January 19 to implant the Total Artificial Heart and was the first patient at Sentara to be converted from “big blue” – the washing machine sized mechanical pumping device – to the Freedom Driver on February 20th. The Freedom Driver is a more portable air compressing device that can fit into a backpack and weighs a little less than 15 pounds.

Set to the constant rhythm of the Freedom Driver, Martino was able to explain that he feels pretty good – all things considered. An almost three-month hospitalization has left him in need of conditioning to build strength and stamina, but he is grateful to be able to walk around with relative freedom from larger devices. He maintains a positive outlook for what the future holds.

“I believe in taking things as they come,” says Martino. “After talking with my doctors we decided this was the route we had to go. I’m thankful to be here. I have four grandchildren and that’s what I live for now. I want to be able to see them grow up.”

Martino is expected to be released from Sentara Heart Hospital later this week to await a donor heart at home. He is looking most forward to sitting in his own lounge chair and sleeping in his bed.

“We’ll send him home with basically the same heart rate of most healthy adults,” adds Dr. John Herre, a cardiologist and medical director of the Sentara Advanced Heart Failure Program. “We expect Mr. Martino to be able to exercise, visit with friends and family, and lead a relatively normal life once he goes home.”

“However, swimming in the pool is out,” adds McGrath with a chuckle.

SOURCE Sentara Healthcare

Source: PR Newswire