Artificial heart recipient dies

By Joseph Altman Jr.

Arizona Daily Wildcat

The latest recipient of a CardioWest total artificial heart at University Medical Center died Tuesday.

Forty-three-year-old Alex Carnio of Scottsdale died as a result of multiple organ failure. Carnio received the artificial heart Feb. 28 in a procedure led by Dr. Francisco Arabia, a UMC cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon.

"(Carnio's) kidneys failed, his lungs started to fail, and it appears he had an infection that contributed to making his body deteriorate," Arabia said.

Arabia said he will know exactly what happened when an autopsy report is completed within the next few days.

Carnio was the sixth patient to receive a CardioWest heart. The previous five recipients, who subsequently received human heart transplants, are doing well, according to UMC officials.

Arabia said, "There are some people so sick to start with that there might be nothing that can help them."

He said this setback should not have any impact on future transplant attempts.

Carnio was expected to receive a human heart transplant after recovery from the CardioWest operation, but his condition did not improve.

"He never became a candidate for transplantation," Arabia said. "His organs never got better, even with the artificial heart."

Judy Elam, information specialist for the Arizona Health Sciences Center, said that the CardioWest heart was first used in 1992 and that only five other centers in the United States have FDA approval to use the device.

A total of 16 artificial hearts of various types have been used on 14 patients at UMC since the center began using the devices in 1985.

Carnio is survived by his wife, Betty, and two children, Bryn, 11, and Andee, 10. The family has asked that in lieu of gifts, donations be made to the University Heart Center or the Marshall Foundation Artificial Heart Program.

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