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Charlotte surgeons implant first total artificial heart in the Carolinas

Surgeons at Carolinas HealthCare System have implanted a total artificial heart, the first such procedure performed in a Carolinas hospital.

Dr. Eric Skipper, medical director of adult cardiac surgery at Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute, led the team that implanted the device Jan. 13 in a 49-year-old male patient. The surgery took eight hours, and the patient is currently in serious condition at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte. He and his family declined to speak publicly about the experience.

The device, called the Total Artificial Heart or TAH, is manufactured by SynCardia and is the only total artificial heart approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration.

Dr. Sanjeev Gulati, medical director of Sanger’s advanced heart failure and mechanical circulatory support program, called this a “critical development for heart failure patients in our region. Until recently, these patients had few options available, unless they had the ability to travel outside of the region for care – a process that can be very difficult due to the severity of, and complications associated with, heart failure.”

The nearest medical centers that can implant a total artificial heart are in Norfolk and Richmond, Va.; Gainesville, Fla.; Lexington, Ky.; and New Orleans.

Skipper said the total artificial heart can “help a lot of people by providing a second chance to get a life-saving heart transplant.”

Sanger surgeons, who performed the first heart transplant in Charlotte in the 1980s, have also been implanting other artificial heart devices to help keep heart-failure patients alive and healthy until they can find compatible human donors.

They have implanted devices that take over the work of the left or right ventricle. But when both sides of the heart fail, the TAH is the only device that can be used to sustain life until transplant. The TAH replaces both of the heart’s ventricles and its four heart valves. When a donor heart becomes available, surgeons will remove the TAH and perform a transplant.

Garloch: 704-358-5078
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