NEW YORK and BEIRUT, Sept. 3 A medical team at the American University of Beirut Medical Center (AUBMC) has successfully performed the first artificial heart implant in Lebanon, saving the life of a 37-year-old man suffering from terminal heart failure.
Led by two AUB doctors, the six-hour operation, which took place on August 28, 2009, was deemed a success after the patient survived the first critical 72 hours and showed improvements in all his vital signs. The artificial heart implant operation involves the insertion of a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) that assumes the functions of the left ventricle of the heart, the dominant chamber which is responsible for pumping oxygenated blood via the aorta to the rest of the body.
"The operation was a huge success as it was this patient's last chance at life," said Dr. Pierre Sfeir, the AUBMC surgeon who conducted the operation.
"His vital organs are functioning normally and the new device implant is pumping blood properly," added Dr. Hadi Skouri, the AUBMC cardiologist who has been treating the patient and a specialist on heart failure and transplantation.
The LVAD used in this surgery, the Heartmate II, is manufactured by the US medical technology company, Thoratec.
The two AUB doctors were assisted by a multidisciplinary medical team, including a leading expert on LVAD operations, Dr. Latif Arusoglu, a German surgeon, as well as a clinical specialist, both dispatched by Thoratec.
"90 percent of all cardiac failures are the result of left ventricular failure," explained Dr. Skouri. When the left ventricle does not function adequately, there are several treatment options available to physicians, he added. As a first step, these patients are placed on a drug therapy that helps the heart pump blood. If that is not successful, patients might undergo a relatively simple operation that involves inserting a pacemaker or other devices that help improve the heart's pumping function. As a last resort, physicians opt for human heart transplants. Since human heart donors are in short supply, surgeons have previously used the LVAD as a temporary solution, while waiting for a human donor heart.
LVADs have been available to patients since the mid-1990s, but only through an in-hospital procedure. Not all patients are eligible for this expensive and complicated surgery: "If the patient suffers from other serious chronic diseases, we cannot operate," said Dr. Sfeir, who heads the Division of Cardio-thoracic Surgery at AUBMC.
Dr. Samir Alam, who heads the Cardiology Division, stressed that LVADs are a "last-resort treatment." "Although we are very excited to offer this new procedure to our patients, we cannot stress enough the complexity of this surgery and the fact that not all cardiac patients are eligible for this implant," he noted.
"I was facing death when I arrived here," said the 37-year-old father of four who was operated on at AUBMC. "Merely lifting an arm would knock the wind out of me. I could barely breathe. Now, I have a new lease on life." He added: "My family is really, really happy. My dad cannot stop smiling."
About the AUB Medical Center
AUBMC is the private, not-for-profit teaching center of the Faculty of Medicine at the American University of Beirut. It consists of a 420-bed medical center and provides all medical, surgical, pediatrics, obstetrics/gynecological and psychiatric services. The Medical Center offers comprehensive healthcare services, extensive tertiary/quaternary resources, medical, nursing, and paramedical training.
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SOURCE American University of Beirut