September 27, 2018

Vanderbilt implants Tennessee’s first artificial heart

Cardiac surgeons at Vanderbilt University Medical Center performed Tennessee’s first total artificial heart implantation Wednesday, Sept. 26, on a 56-year-old patient with congestive heart failure.
Photo: Anne Rayner.

by Craig Boerner

Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Cardiac Surgery Team performed Tennessee’s first total artificial heart implantation Wednesday, Sept. 26, on a 56-year-old man with congestive heart failure.

 The team used a SynCardia Total Artificial Heart, a mechanical solution for a patient’s failing heart, whereby surgeons completely remove the patient’s heart and replace it with an artificial device, eliminating risks associated with leaving a diseased heart in place.

 “It is really an important moment for us here at Vanderbilt,” said Ashish Shah, MD, professor and chair of Cardiac Surgery. “Our advanced heart failure program has already been a world leader in many respects, but our ability to take care of the truly complicated patients with either complex structural heart problems or problems that are just not solved by conventional technologies, can now be treated with this approach.”

Artificial heart technology has been around for several decades, Shah said, but advanced teams now have the expertise to understand which patients benefit most from implantation.

 “In starting this program, we wanted to understand who are the right patients who will really benefit from this. And, coupled with our heart transplant program that allows patients to get transplanted quickly, this becomes an optimal strategy to really save lives for the sickest patients,” Shah said.

The SynCardia Total Artificial Heart was implanted by VUMC surgeons on Sept. 26.

“There are patients who have been supported for years with this technology. Our goal is, as soon as our patients are physically ready, that we go ahead and get them transplanted. It can be within weeks; it can be within a year. It depends on what the patient needs.”

 The Vanderbilt Heart Transplant Program is now the second busiest in the world, with nearly 100 adult and pediatric heart transplants a year.

 Vanderbilt’s surgical teams for the state’s first total artificial heart included the Anesthesia team lead by Tony Hernandez, MD, also director of the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit; lead surgeons Shah and Keki Balsara, MD, first assistant Scott Casey, surgical scrub technician Hallie Carroll, and perfusionist Joe Bianchi.