Artificial Heart Program at Intermountain Medical Center Brings New Total Artificial Heart Technology back to Utah

Jess Gomez

 (801) 507-7455


Murray, UT (11/27/2007) — Center to become 12th in nation to implant country's only FDA-approved total artificial heart.

Nearly 25 years after Barney Clark was implanted with the world's first temporary artificial heart, surgeons from the Utah Artificial Heart Program at Intermountain Medical Center are bringing new artificial heart technology to cardiac patients in Utah.

Intermountain Medical Center is only the 12th center in the nation — and the only hospital in the Intermountain West — to offer the FDA-approved total artificial heart technology to heart failure patients who are waiting for a heart transplant.

Intermountain's artificial heart program, which previously was located at LDS Hospital, was one of only five programs to participate in the original clinical trial of the CardioWest temporary total artificial heart. In 1995, James W Long, M.D., Ph.D., director of the artificial heart program, implanted the second temporary total artificial heart in Utah history in Al Marsden, a 56-year-old Idaho resident who suffered from ischemic cardiomyopathy and cardiogenic shock. Barney Clark was the first recipient.

Al returned to Utah last week to talk about artificial heart technology — and his life since the five months he spent at LDS Hospital with an artificial heart.

How the artificial heart works and how patients will benefit. When a patient's diseased heart is taken out, the new-generation artificial heart is implanted in its place to replace the left and right ventricles. An air hose connected to an exterior console pumps air into the device, which replaces the heart's natural pumping function.

The difference between the current artificial heart and the one Marsden used in 1995: Its external console, which powers the device, now is about the size of a carry-on suitcase you'd wheel to the airport; the old one was 400 pounds and the size of a small refrigerator. As a result, patients who receive the new artificial heart can go home and keep up the kind of activity that keeps them healthier, which helps them do better when they receive their donor heart.

"The console is one-tenth of the size of the previous device and much more portable," said cardiothoracic surgeon Stephen Clayson, M.D, associate surgical director of the artificial heart program. "It means people can go home and wait for a human transplant."

"I look forward to being able to rehabilitate these patients faster and discharge them sooner," added medical intensivist Brad Rasmusson, M.D., medical director of the artificial heart program, who cares for artificial heart patients before and after surgery.

Some artificial heart history. Artificial heart technology was used at LDS Hospital from 1995 to 1999, but implantation ceased because of the costs and clinical risks of hospitalizing patients for months at a time.

The new total artificial heart will be used to bridge heart-failure patients until donor hearts are available. Three to five patients a year are expected to use it at Intermountain Medical Center. The heart device has been approved for implantation by the FDA, but the console isn't approved yet — it's being used as part of a clinical trial Intermountain Medical Center is participating in.

Total artificial heart technology will be used with left- and right-ventricle support devices that replace the function of part of the heart, said Dale Renlund, M.D., director of the heart failure prevention and treatment program at Intermountain Medical Center. Since 1995, 985 heart transplanted have been performed in the Salt Lake Valley, and about a third of those patients have been bridged to their transplants with mechanical heart support.

"I have to tell you, my life was over without this device," Marsden says. "This device allowed me to survive to the point where I could have a transplant. I've had a transplant for 12 years and I have zero side effects. I have no restrictions on my life."

He's now 68, works as the owner of an architecture and city planning firm and spends time skiing, fishing, and being with his family and friends. "My life before and after my transplant is totally different," he says. "I'm now able to communicate and be a productive person in this world."

David Grauer, administrator and chief executive officer of Intermountain Medical Center, says the artificial heart program at Intermountain Medical Center is one of the finest programs in the nation and another example of the cutting-edge care available at the new medical center.

"We're thrilled to be able to provide this level of cardiac care to our patients," he says.

Copyright © , Intermountain Healthcare, All rights reserved.