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Arkansas' first Total Artificial Heart patient receives donor heart at Baptist Health

Arkansas' first Total Artificial Heart patient receives donor heart at Baptist Health

Nov 19, 2018

LITTLE ROCK – Baptist Health Medical Center-Little Rock has successfully transplanted a donor heart into the state’s first Total Artificial Heart. The recipient, 23-year-old Chadarius Johnson of Jonesboro, is recovering from the groundbreaking surgery, which occurred Thursday, Nov. 15.

Johnson received the Syncardia Total Artificial Heart on April 18, 2017. The Total Artificial Heart is a battery-operated device that contains the same components as a real human heart and serves as a bridge to transplant.

Baptist Health Medical Center-Little Rock has a long history of heart milestones. In 1989, the hospital performed the state’s first heart transplant, and then again in 1999 it introduced left ventricular assist devices (LVAD) to Arkansas. Since 1989, 280 heart transplants and more than 375 HeartMates, a type of LVAD, have been implanted along with other mechanical support devices. In 2015, BHMC-LR was selected as one of only 60 centers in the country to evaluate the HeartMate III, the latest advancement in mechanical circulatory support, and currently is in the top three enrolling centers in the country.

“Mr. Johnson has been on the heart transplant waiting list since January 2017, and due to the difficulty of finding a suitable donor heart, we implanted the artificial heart as the final option to save his life,” said Dr. John Ransom, surgical director of the Baptist Health Heart Transplant Institute. “This device is designed to buy him time while a donor heart is found."

Most patients with end-stage heart failure would have received an LVAD. But for Johnson, an LVAD wasn’t enough. He had already been placed on Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) - a treatment that provides support for patients with extreme cardiac and respiratory failure - to stabilize his condition. While waiting for a donor heart, the only option for Johnson was a Total Artificial Heart.

“The heart transplant went well,” said Dr. Ransom. “I’ve gotten to know Chad extensively and to see this day come for him is very exciting.

He was doing so well on the Total Artificial Heart that we were able to wait for a good donor heart.”

Baptist Health has the only comprehensive heart failure management program in Arkansas that can offer patients ECMO, LVAD, Total Artificial Heart and heart transplant.

More than 1,700 Total Artificial Hearts have been implanted across the globe. Similar to a heart transplant, the Total Artificial Heart replaces both failing heart ventricles and the four native heart valves. There are no motors or electronics of any type inside the body. All electronics are located outside the body in the pneumatic driver, which powers the Total Artificial Heart and monitors blood flow.

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