LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- The man who received the world's first self-contained artificial heart was back on a ventilator to assist his breathing but was still doing well, one of his doctors said Thursday.
"The patient this morning remains stable," Dr. Laman Gray told ABC News' "Good Morning America." "We continue to be pleased with his progress."
The softball-sized titanium and plastic pump known as the AbioCor was implanted Monday during a seven-hour operation at Jewish Hospital. The patient, whose name has not been released, is described as in his mid- to late 50s.
The man has chronic kidney failure and diabetes and had multiple heart attacks, Gray said. He had had previous coronary bypass surgery, around 1992.
Because of his poor health, he had been turned down for a heart transplant elsewhere, doctors said. Before the operation, he had been given an 80 percent chance of dying within 30 days. Gray told ABC the patient could walk only about 100 feet and was using a wheelchair.
On Wednesday, doctors began weaning him from the ventilator he had been on since the surgery. He was back on the device Thursday morning but Gray said that wasn't a reason for great concern.
While stressing the man is "an extremely sick gentleman," Gray said there was a chance he could live well beyond the 60 days that is the initial goal of the experimental surgery.
"I'm very optimistic that he may be able to live a long time," Gray told ABC.
"We have a pact: He's going to take me fishing and teach me how to bass fish."
The heart is intended to be a permanent replacement for the man's failing heart. The hope is the mechanism will one day allow recipients to lead a relatively normal life, said John Watson of the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, which has given $20 million toward research into self-contained artificial hearts.
The AbioCor, manufactured by Abiomed Inc. of Danvers, Mass., is considered a technological leap from the Jarvik-7 mechanical heart used in the 1980s, which was attached by wires and tubes to bulky machinery outside the body.
The AbioCor receives wireless power through the skin by portable battery packs that each last up to four hours.
A rechargeable internal battery -- about the size of a pager -- will operate the device for 30 to 40 minutes, allowing the wearer to take off the external battery packs while taking a shower, for example.
The artificial heart raises hope for some that up to 100,000 Americans who require cardiac therapy may have an alternative treatment. Only about half of the 4,200 Americans on waiting lists for donor hearts received one last year.
However, critics such as Dr. Robert K. Jarvik, who invented the Jarvik-7 heart, said it raises false hope since its size would disqualify most women and would help only about 1 percent of those in need of new hearts. Jarvik says science should focus on devices that give the natural heart mechanical help in healing itself.
In response, Gray said devices that assist the heart were good but the replacement artificial heart could be a better option for some patients.
On the Net:
Jewish Hospital Artificial Heart Project: http://www.heartpioneers.com
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