External Pumps Keep Boy Alive as Heart Transplant Is Studied

From Times Wire Services

A teen-ager who was said to have been healthy 10 days ago was being kept alive Friday by external pumps that were assisting his diseased heart, surgeons said.

Doctors were hesitant to transplant a human heart into the youth because they feared a mysterious viral infection would destroy it.

Michael C. Jones, 16, of Indiana, was listed in critical condition at Jewish Hospital here. Doctors said his blood circulation was being aided by two small pumps called ventricular assist devices, or VADs, which were made by Thoratec Laboratories Corp. of Oakland, Calif.

20% Chance of Survival

Unlike the Jarvik-7 artificial heart, which has been implanted three times in humans, the VAD is intended to rest atop the abdomen, circulating the blood until cardiac muscle can recover. Twice before, doctors said, it has been used to keep a patient alive until a human donor heart could be located. Both cases were in California.

Dr. Laman A. Gray Jr., who performed the operation to link the pumps to Jones' heart Thursday night, said the youth had a 20% chance of survival, adding that the pumps would be used until the natural heart heals or until a transplant is possible.

Jones is "so sick that I personally doubt that his heart will recover," said Gray, who added that a decision on whether to perform a human-heart transplant would be made by Sunday.

Hometown Not Released

The youth, whose hometown was not released, was diagnosed Sunday as having acute cardiomyopathy, a disease that progressively weakens the heart muscle. Doctors also found he had the unexplained viral infection. It caused several complications, including kidney failure, leading to use of a dialysis machine early Friday, Gray said.

"Ten days ago he was 100% well," said Dr. Gerald D. Temes, chairman of Jewish Hospital's institute for heart-lung disease.

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