‘Desperately ill’ man becomes third recipient of artificial heart

By Michael Gracyzk Associated Press Writer
Friday September 28, 2001

HOUSTON — A “desperately ill” man became the world’s third recipient of a self-contained mechanical heart after a six-hour operation. 

The procedure Wednesday at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital in Houston follows the success of two implants of the AbioCor device at Jewish Hospital in Louisville, Ky. 

“The procedure ... went as expected and the patient is resting comfortably,” the hospital said in a statement Thursday. 

“It couldn’t have gone better,” Dr. O.H. Frazier, who spent more than a decade helping develop the AbioCor replacement heart at the hospital’s Texas Heart Institute, told the Houston Chronicle. “Everything looks stable now. He’s not having any problems. We have some hope for him.” 

He told the newspaper the man had been “desperately ill for a long time” with heart failure and was not a candidate for a heart transplant because of complications involving his lungs. 

If the lung problem improves, doctors will reassess the possibility of a heart transplant, he said. 

The completely internal pump, made of plastic and titanium and weighing less than 2 pounds, is powered through the skin by an external battery pack. 

The hospital did not identify the patient or give his age and said it would withhold any information about the patient for at least 30 days. Officials said a news briefing was planned for Friday to discuss the procedure. 

University of Louisville surgeons implanted the first AbioCor hearts on July 2 and Sept. 13 at Jewish Hospital in Kentucky. 

The first patient, Bob Tools, is now in his 87th day. He is gaining weight and making excursions outside the hospital. Doctors said his kidneys, liver and lungs are functioning normally. 

Tom Christerson, just 14 days removed from the surgery, is still in the early stages of recovery, but doctors said his condition is improving. 

The heart, made by Massachusetts-based Abiomed Inc., is intended for patients with end-stage heart failure who have more than a 70 percent chance of dying within a month. 

The AbioCor study is initially limited to five people nationwide. Other approved sites in addition to the Houston and Louisville facilities include Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital, both in Boston, and UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles. 

The Texas Heart Institute, founded in 1962 by surgeon Dr. Denton Cooley, was the site of the nation’s first successful heart transplant and the first implantation of a total artificial heart.