Palmetto Health installs artificial heart assist device

December 25, 2012 

Palmetto Health Heart Hospital now has the capability to implant an artificial device that keeps a damaged heart pumping blood to the body.

The HeartMate II left ventricular assist device isn’t a full artificial heart because it doesn’t replace the organ. However, it can tide patients over until transplant surgery. Or if patients aren’t candidates for heart transplant, they can live outside of a hospital for years with the implanted device.

“It is a means to prolong the lives of patients with severe heart failure,” said Dr. Jeffery Martin, who performed the first HeartMate II surgery at Palmetto Health last month.

The device is attached to the heart and the aorta during surgery. The operation also involves running a drive line out of the abdomen to a small battery powered pack that can be strapped to the body.

Partial heart assist devices are a rapidly developing technology, with numerous companies racing to get federal approval for their versions, according to Dr. Reid Tribble, a cardiothoracic surgeon at Palmetto Health.

The Palmetto Health Heart Hospital has been working for three years to prepare for use of such devices, Tribble said. MUSC in Charleston also has the capability to implant the devices as well as a similar device known as a Berlin Heart for children.

The first Palmetto Health patient, whose name wasn’t released by the hospital, had been a patient of cardiologist Dr. Verne Prosser for years. “He was short of breath, even at rest,” Prosser said. “We had exhausted all other medical possibilities. Without this option, he would not have been able to survive any longer.”

-- Joey Holleman

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