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Tucson Doctors Implant Artificial Heart : First Use of Jarvik-7 as Stopgap During Search for Human Donor

Times Staff Writer

Doctors in Tucson implanted a Jarvik-7 artificial heart in a 25-year-old man Thursday to keep him alive while they search for a human heart for transplant.

The recipient, Michael Drummond of Phoenix, was reported in critical but stable condition after five hours of surgery at the University of Arizona Medical Center. Drummond is the youngest person yet to receive the mechanical pump that is already sustaining three men in their 50s. Two other recipients have died.

The surgeons will wait seven to 14 days before attempting to replace the mechanical heart with a human heart so that Drummond can recover his strength, Amy Montgomery, a hospital spokeswoman, said.

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Drummond’s surgical team, led by Dr. Jack Copeland, obtained federal approval to implant the device as a temporary life-sustaining measure just two weeks ago, making the doctors one of three groups in the United States able to use the Jarvik-7, Montgomery said. Copeland directs the hospital’s transplant program and has performed more than 77 human heart transplants, Montgomery said.

“We caught him (Drummond) in the process of dying and were able to rescue him with the artificial heart,” hospital officials quoted Copeland as saying after the surgery.

Copeland led the team that implanted the so-called Phoenix heart, a mechanical pump developed by an Arizona dentist, into a man awaiting a second human heart transplant. The Phoenix heart, which has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, kept the man alive for 11 hours, but the second transplant failed, and he died.

Dr. Robert Jarvik, the inventor of the fist-size, externally powered pump that bears his name, arrived as the surgery on Drummond was being completed. He said later that it “went without a hitch.”

This is the first use of the Jarvik heart as a temporary “bridge to transplant,” rather than as a permanent replacement for a failing heart, according to Donald Graybarz, a vice president of Symbion Inc., the Salt Lake City company that builds and sells the Jarvik-7 and trained Copeland’s team.

Drummond had been transferred to the university hospital last Monday from Valley View Community Hospital in Youngtown, Ariz., when it became clear that he would need a transplant, said Joseph Kaplan, a cardiologist who treated Drummond in Youngtown.

He had been suffering from cardiomyopathy, a progressive deterioration of the heart muscle, Kaplan said.

In February, Drummond left his job as assistant manager at a Safeway supermarket in Cottonwood, Ariz., after he developed what seemed to be a severe, persistent flu, store manager Eddie Rose said in a telephone interview.

Another type of implantable blood pump, called a left ventricular assist device--which aids, rather than replaces, an ailing heart--has been successfully employed at least five times in this country to sustain patients waiting for heart transplants, according to Peer Portner, consulting professor of cardiovascular surgery at Stanford University.


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