Doctors at the University of Iowa Hospitals in Iowa City say they’ve completed the first artificial heart transplant in the state. Cardiologist Jennifer Goerbig-Campbell says the “Total Artificial Heart” is a bridge for patients to keep them alive until a human donor heart can be implanted.

She says the pump is surgically implanted replaces both diseased ventricles in the heart and is the size of the normal heart. Goerbig-Cambell says the patient is doing well and is required to remain close to the hospital in case a donor heart becomes available. She says the heart pump has been approved by the F.D.A. for about 10-years, but they waited until it could be implanted and the patient could leave the hospital before they decided to use the device.

Goerbig-Cambell says the staff began training to use the artificial heart last September. She says the main team of surgeons and support staff went to Arizona where the pump was developed and learned the management of the device and how to surgically implant it into a patient. Goerbig-Cambell says they returned to Iowa for additional training and then had support from the developers as they did the actual surgery on the patient. It’s not know how long the patient will have to remain on the heart pump.

Goerbig-Cambell says the wait for a donor heart depends on multiple factors, such as the patient’s blood type, donor variability, the size of the patient’s heart. So she says the wait can be anywhere from months to years. Goerbig-Cambell says the artificial heart gives doctors another tool to help patients.

She says they never know how many patients may need the pump in a given year, but based on a review of past cases, they anticipate implanting six to 10 pumps per year. Goerbig-Cambell says the surgery is generally covered by insurance. The University Hospitals do 12 to 15 heart transplants per year. say over 900 Total Artificial Hearts have been implanted since it was approved.

For more information, visit the University of Iowa Healthcare website: www.uihealthcare.org/heart.