By Joseph Altman Jr.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
For the University Medical Center's heart program, 1995 has been a year of firsts, and more innovations are on the way.
UMC surgeons performed several procedures for the first time at the medical center in the past year.
On April 18, doctors performed an experimental procedure that had never been done in Arizona.
The technique, called dynamic cardiomyoplasty, uses a patient's back muscles to assist the heart's pumping action.
A back muscle is loosened but kept attached to its nerves and blood supply. The muscle is then wrapped around the weakened heart. Electrical components and a special pacemaker then "convert" the muscle into one that can support the heart permanently by helping it pump stronger.
The procedure is being tested in ten medical centers around the United States in a trial by the Food and Drug Administration. Twelve patients each year will participate in the study for the next three years. Half will undergo traditional therapy, while the others will
have the cardiomyoplasty procedure.
In March, doctors implanted a portable heart assist device in a 62-year-old New Mexico man.
The operation marked the first time the device was used with a new portable electronic controller and battery pack which is worn on a belt or carried in a shoulder bag.
UMC is also one of only two centers in the country that have FDA approval for a patient on the Novacor system to leave the hospital, Judy Elam, information specialist for UMC, said in a statement.
In addition to these breakthrough procedures, nine human heart transplants and one CardioWest total artificial heart transplant have been done since Jan. 1.
Since the heart transplant program began in 1979, 411 transplants have been performed, Elam said.
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