By Joseph Altman Jr.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Doctors at University Medical Center implanted a portable heart assist device in a 62-year-old man from New Mexico Thursday. It was the first such implantation performed at UMC.
While UMC has used the Novacor Left Ventricular Assist System 15 times since 1989, in the past the LVAS required a large external console that limited the patient's mobility while on the device.
The new portable system's electronic controller and battery pack are worn on a belt or carried in a shoulder bag, which is connected to the implanted pump by a lead through the skin.
Dr. Jack Copeland, chief of cardiovascular and thoracic surgery at UMC, led the five-hour operation, which involved the implantation of a pump into the patient's abdomen. The pump then takes over the blood-pumping function of the failing heart.
In a statement from UMC, Richard Smith, technical director of the Marshall Foundation Artificial Heart Program, said the portable device has several advantages.
"The size of the console is much smaller, which will allow the patient to be more mobile," he said. "We're also looking into the possibility that a patient could leave the hospital once they're stabilized.
The advantages of this system make it more cost-effective and better for the patient."
The system is also being studied in Europe as a permanent alternative to a heart transplants. As of January, 274 patients worldwide have received a LVAS device. Of those, 95 patients are on the portable system.
The first use of the portable system was in 1993, when implants were performed at the University of Paris Henri Mondor Hospital and Stanford University.
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