Man receives first artificial heart in Gulf South Region

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Part man, part machine is something that sounds like fantasy, but it's much closer to reality than you can believe.

"We're very excited as a group that we had the opportunity to help a patient with this technology," explained Ochsner cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Aditya Bansal.

Ochsner surgeons implanted the Gulf South Region's first artificial heart into a patient with severe heart damage. The unidentified patient suffered from a condition called cardiomyopathy, or  an enlarged heart.

"The definition of heart failure is that the heart doesn't work. The flow to the body doesn't work," said Dr. Hector Ventura who is the head of heart failure and heart transplant.

With no other option, and his health failing, the man was looking at hospice care.  However, he qualified for the artificial heart transplant, which would buy him the time he needed to rehabilitate while waiting on an organ transplant.

"This is actually a very involved operation. Our planning actually started back in December," said Bansal.  "What this involves is a big group I would say, anesthesiologist, cardiologist, cardiac surgeons and other paramedical staff."

During the surgery, doctors removed both ventricles and replaced them with a plastic pump which would take over the blood flow in the body.

"When you have a heart, a donor heart it works on a very different physiology it's designed to start beating by itself," said Bansal of the surgery's challenges. "Here, this is all driven, manmade device that has to work and there are so many moving parts, there are so many components to it, you have to make sure they all go out."

The procedure took nearly eight hours. For the foreseeable future, the patient will remain in the hospital under close watch of a staff specially trained to handle a patient with a machine for a heart.

"You don't have arrhythmia, because you have no heart and then you don't have electrocardiograms because it's a line," said Ventura.

While the artificial heart is not a permanent solution, the machine will allow the patient to rehabilitate and his quality of life has already improved. Doctors say he is able to eat more regularly, move around the ICU and even ride a stationary bike.

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