UMC doctors perform new operation

By Joseph Altman Jr.

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Doctors at University Medical Center performed an experimental heart procedure yesterday, marking the first time the surgery has been performed in Arizona.

The technique, called dynamic cardiomyoplasty, involves wrapping part of a patient's back muscles around his failing heart to stimulate the heart's pumping action.

Electrical components and a special pacemaker stimulate the back muscle to "convert" the muscle to one that can support the heart permanently.

UMC chief of cardiovascular and thoracic surgery Dr. Jack Copeland led the four-hour procedure, and said the patient, 63-year-old Ted Gamble of Colorado Springs, Colo., has already shown improvement.

Copeland said he expects Gamble to be discharged within a week, but he will have to return to the hospital at least every other week for two months.

While it will take at least two months of stimulation before any benefits of the procedure can be seen, the procedure had immediate effects on Gamble's health, Copeland said.

He said the patient's heart is now smaller, his blood pressure higher, and his cardiac condition better.

The cardiomyoplasty procedure has been performed around the world since 1985, but is considered experimental by the United States Food and Drug Administration. UMC is one of ten centers in the United States participating in the study.

Twelve patients at UMC will participate in the FDA investigation each year for the next three years. Half of the patients will undergo the new procedure, while the other half will be receive conventional treatment.

Even though this was the first surgery of its kind at UMC, the team of surgeons has had experience with the procedure before.

"We felt very comfortable," Copeland said. "One fellow (has participated in) about 23 of them, and another surgeon flew down from Portland to help with each step, as he's done it before in Portland, Paris and the Orient."

Gamble's wife, Thelma, said she is delighted with the outcome of the procedure and is optimistic about her husband's health.

"It's a high you can't put your fingers on," she said. "It was great we knew he couldn't be transplanted and we know he was going to go downhill."

Gamble was not a candidate for a transplant because he has Lupus, a disease which creates large amounts of antibodies that would reject a transplant. Copeland said it would be difficult to find a compatible donor.

While studies have not proven that dynamic cardiomyoplasty can prolong a patient's life, Copeland said a two-year study is not long enough to talk about survival in a chronic disease.

"We have every reason to assume it will delay the progression of heart disease and will prolong life," he said.

Over 400 patients worldwide have had the cardiomyoplasty procedure, but only 50 to 75 have been performed in the United States as part of the FDA's study. Copeland said he expects to perform the procedure at UMC again in about two months.

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