Surgeons in Montreal have successfully implanted a long-term mechanical heart in a 65-year-old man, making him the only living Canadian with no pulse.
GÃ©rard Langevin of Coteau-du-Lac, Que., received theHeartMate II device, whichis aturbineheart that provides a constant blood flow. On Wednesday, doctors announced Langevin wasgoing home from hospital.
Last July, Langevin, 65, said he asked God to let him die, after end-stage heart disease left him barely able to walk. Now, after a mechanical heart was implanted Nov. 23,he says he feels like a new man, who can't wait to go fishing next spring and take up bowling again.
"Before receiving my mechanical heart, I couldn't do anything at all," Langevin recalled. "Even walking a few steps was difficult, because I was so weak and my breathing was so bad."
The HeartMateII device he received is designed to last up to 10 years, compared withthree yearsfor otherartificial heartson the market.
The silent deviceconnects to the left ventricle of the heart on one end and the aorta on the other, tocirculate blood from the left side of the heart to the rest of the body. Overall, the HeartMate II is similar in size and weight to a standard D battery.
"When you don't have contact, there's no friction," said Dr. Renzo Cecere, surgical director of the heart failure and heart transplant program at the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC). "Without frictionâ¦ there's no reason for the turbine to wear out. It can last a long, long time."
Since therotating turbineprovides a continuous flow of blood,the patient has no pulse. His blood pressure cannot be measured using normal means, Cecere said.
The HeartMateII costs $100,000 and is currently undergoing a clinical trial. It could be several years before it is approved by Health Canada.
FourCanadianshave received the HeartMate II device, including Langevin. The first implant was done at the MUHC in June 2006 on a patient who died a short time later.
The procedure was also performed in June at the Toronto General Hospital, on a patient who subsequently received a heart transplant in October. A second patient at the Toronto General received the implant earlier this fall, but died of complications.
In the meantime, the MUHCand Toronto Generalhope to implant several more of the devices as part of the clinical trials. Only patients who would otherwise dieare eligible.
Langevin was not a suitable candidate for a heart transplant because his other organs were failing.