First Patient in Michigan Leaves Hospital with Artificial Heart

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A patient at the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center in Ann Arbor became the first in the state to be discharged from a hospital without a human heart.

Doctors at the hospital removed Stan Larkin’s failing heart in November and replaced it with the SynCardia temporary Total Artificial Heart, which must be connected to a machine that delivers compressed air into the ventricles to allow blood to be pumped through the body.

“The device Stan has is … a mechanical pump to bridge him to transplantation,” says Dr. Jonathan Haft, a cardiologist at the University of Michigan. “He’s still listed for a heart transplant and we hope to transplant him as soon as an organ is available. In the meantime he can be at home, he can be functional, and continue to rehabilitate himself so he’s in the best possible shape when his opportunity comes.”

Haft says Larkin was initially connected to, “Big Blue,” a standard power supply which weighs 418 pounds and is the size of a washing machine, meaning he couldn’t leave the hospital.

Larkin was then switched over to the 13-pound device called a Freedom driver, which was approved by the FDA in June 2014 to power the total artificial heart as a bridge to transplant. His care makes him the first U-M patient to make the transition to the Freedom driver, and the first patient in Michigan to go home with it.

Larkin was discharged from the hospital on Dec. 23, and is currently waiting for his brother, who also had the same treatment, to join him.

The artificial heart is a temporary solution while the brothers climb a transplant waiting list of more than 3,000 people in the United States needing a heart transplant. As they wait, they must stay close to a power supply, eat low sodium meals, and a take a number of blood-thinning medications, say hospital officials.

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