2 men get artificial hearts in one hospital on same day

HeartMate 2 will function until human hearts are available.

April 27, 2010 06:00
1 minute read.
Iluz (left) and Abuhatzeira, with Prof. Dan Aravot

Artificial heart patients 311. (photo credit: Eli Dadon )


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Doctors at Haifa’s Carmel Medical Center this week performed two implants of artificial hearts one after the other for the first time in Israel.

The five-hour operations saved the lives of the two young men, one 29 and the other a decade older, and the advance HeartMate 2 models will function until human hearts are available.

But surgeon Prof. Dan Aravot said that due to the severe shortage of human donor organs, it was inevitable that technological advances would, in “a number of years,” make it possible for people to live with permanent artificial hearts and not temporary ones that assist the diseased heart in pumping blood.

An artificial heart was the last hope of 29-year-old Haim Abuhatzeira of Nahariya. He contracted acute myocarditis (an infection of the heart muscle) only a month ago, leading to shortness of breath and severe weakness. This is very rare in young people, according to Dr. Ofer Amir, head of the cardiac insufficiency unit at Carmel, who is treating the two patients. Abuhatzeira, a computer technician, is now recovering from surgery.

So is Shai Iluz, 39, of Tirat Hacarmel, in a nearby bed in the intensive care unit of the cardiothoracic surgery department. Iluz suffered a sudden major coronary infarction, reducing his heart function to only 15 percent, and was desperate for a human heart – but none became available.

More than 120 Israelis are waiting for a human heart transplant, and it is very difficult to get a spare heart from abroad.

To save the two men’s lives, two operations had to be performed on the same day, and many of the cardiac-related staff had to be mobilized, said hospital director Dr. Chen Shapira.

Until now, only a handful of artificial hearts have been implanted in Israel, but the technology is steadily improving. The HeartMate 2 pump weighs only 300 grams, and its motor rotates 9,000 times per second.

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