Artificial heart recipient dies after 56 days; three other recipients still alive

Friday, December 14th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A 74-year-old man who was the world's fourth person to receive a fully self-contained artificial heart died after suffering multiple organ system failure.

The man, whose identity was kept confidential at the request of his family, died Wednesday, doctors at UCLA Medical Center said. He had been living with the AbioCor heart since Oct. 17 _ 56 days _ but had never been well enough to leave the hospital.

During the clinical trial phase under way, the only patients who qualify are those with end-stage heart failure, who are too ill to qualify for a heart transplant and who have a less than 30 percent chance of surviving longer than a month without the mechanical heart.

Three of the six recipients have died, two of organ failure and one of massive bleeding during surgery.

At UCLA, doctors said the device had continued to perform well, but the patient's organs persistently failed. Life support was withdrawn at the request of the family, doctors said.

``The patient and his family showed great courage,'' said Dr. Hillel Laks, the principal surgeon for the UCLA program. ``We are all grieved that we could not extend his life further and return him to a better quality of life.''

The first recipient of the AbioCor heart, Robert Tools, 59, died Nov. 30, after almost five months after the heart was implanted. Before suffering a series of setbacks in November, Tools had recovered enough to make frequent day excursions outside the hospital, including a fishing trip. His death was blamed on long-standing health problems.

Five more implants have been done since Tools' surgery in July, in Louisville, Houston, Los Angeles and Philadelphia. The most recent recipient died of uncontrolled bleeding during the surgery.