Doctors say Houston's artificial heart recipient doing well, could walk next week

Friday, September 28th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

HOUSTON (AP) _ Two days after becoming only the third recipient of a self-contained mechanical heart, a man is doing well and may take his first post-surgical steps next week, doctors said Friday.

``Certainly this man would have never left the hospital alive without this effort,'' said Dr. O.H. Frazier, chief of cardiopulmonary transplantation at the Texas Heart Institute.

The man, whose identity is being withheld, received the AbioCor device Wednesday in a six-hour operation at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital.

The heart is intended for patients with end-stage heart failure who have more than a 70 percent chance of dying within a month. The patient's cardiologist, Dr. Reynolds Delgado, said that before the surgery the man ``couldn't even complete a sentence without gasping for air.''

Frazier said the goal is to keep the man alive for 60 days in the hope that a lung problem will improve and giving doctors time to reassess the possibility of a heart transplant.

Abiomed Inc., maker of the device, is withholding personal information until the medical team and the patient's family agree to release his identity.

The same device has been implanted successfully in two men at Jewish Hospital in Louisville, Ky.

University of Louisville surgeons implanted the first AbioCor heart July 2. The patient, Robert Tools of Franklin, Ky., is gaining weight and venturing outside the hospital. Doctors say his kidneys, liver and lungs are functioning normally.

The second recipient, Tom Christerson of Central City, Ky., is still in the early stages of recovery following his Sept. 13 operation, but doctors said his condition is improving.

Frazier, who spent more than 10 years helping develop the AbioCor, visited Tools two days after the landmark surgery. Afterward, he said the technology has worked better than its developers anticipated.

The internal pump is made of plastic and titanium and weighs less than 2 pounds. It is powered through the skin by an external battery pack.

Initially, only five people nationwide can receive the device.