]City News Service
A 42-year-old San Diego man was recovering Monday after undergoing surgery to replace what was the first total artificial heart implanted in a human at a hospital on the West Coast.
The unidentified man had his diseased heart completely removed and replaced with the device Jan. 7 at UCSD Medical Center. A donor human heart became available late last week, and it was implanted on Saturday.
The total artificial heart was the 366th to be used in the United States, but the first on this side of the country, hospital spokeswoman Jackie Carr said. Just more than 900 have been installed worldwide, she said.
"The total artificial heart is a good device for people who are just beginning to lose the function of their kidneys, liver, intestines, lungs and brain,'' said Dr. Jack Copeland, a professor of surgery and director of cardiac transplantation and mechanical circulatory support at UCSD Health System.
"Patients may be near the point of organ failure but the damage is still reversible," according to Copeland, who has installed 100 of the devices. "The total artificial heart goes in and, in most cases, the patients
can recover from metabolic disaster, provided they are not too advanced in age, weak or suffering from other chronic organ disease."
The San Diego patient survived a near-fatal bout with a virus in his heart when he was in his 20s, Carr said.
Nearly two-thirds of the total artificial heart devices are replaced with a human heart within six months, and nearly all are transplanted within one year, she said.
Carr said the longest someone has been on the total artificial heart is 1,100 days.
According to Copeland, a total artificial heart could be used as a permanent replacement for a defective human heart, but it will take a lot more study to see if that is a viable option.