The first recipient of a self-contained artificial heart suffered bleeding in his brain in the same area damaged by a stroke 10 days ago. The latest setback caused swelling and made the patient, Robert Tools, 59, of Franklin, Kentucky, less responsive, implant surgeon Laman Gray said.
Robert Tools received the AbioCor mechanical heart on July 2 at Jewish Hospital in Louisville. At the time, he was so ill he had been given little chance of living more than 30 days without it. Tools improved after the implant and had even been able to dine out at restaurants and go fishing. Last month, doctors were hoping he would be able to go home for Christmas.
But the stroke November 11 left Tools partially paralyzed on his right side and unable to speak. He has been on a ventilator to help him breathe. Tools also suffered gastrointestinal bleeding again last week. Similar bleeding during the first two months after the heart implant kept doctors from giving Tools blood-thinning anticoagulants that reduce the risk of clots, which can cause strokes.
Doctors finally were able to give Tools anti-coagulant medicine during the last month, and that could have had the unintended effect of freeing the already-formed clot, probably not much larger than a pinhead, and allowing it to move to the brain.