A heart transplant patient’s new heart was failing, so his doctors in Omaha/Council Bluffs went a different route and have successfully implanted what’s called a “total artificial heart.” Heart surgeon John Um, at the Nebraska Medical Center, says it opens a new era of possibilities for the region’s heart patients.
“What this really means is that it’s another option that’s available for patients here in Nebraska and in Iowa, western Iowa,” Dr. Um says. The 42-year-old man, Greg Rathe of Weeping Water, Nebraska, becomes the state’s first artificial heart recipient.
Rathe will remain connected to the artificial heart until a perfect match transplant can be found. Um says the artificial heart, which can be heard in the background, is buying Rathe valuable time.
“We’ve been heavily involved in other types of mechanical circuits for his support, but in certain situations those options may not be viable for some patients,” Um says. “There are some patients out there who may not be supported with (these devices) so a total artificial heart may be the only viable option.”
Heart failure specialist Dr. Ioana Dumitru says Rathe’s transplanted heart, which he received last year, wasn’t going to last, so this new avenue proved to be the best opportunity to survive. “Because of his level of sickness, we have decided as a team that his only chance was the total artificial heart,” Dr. Dumitru says.
“There was no other available mechanical device that could have bridged him to a transplant.” The new artificial heart is connected to Rathe’s chest by two pumps. He’ll remain connected to the pumps until another heart can be found.
Doctors say it has to be a perfect match, otherwise Rathe’s body will reject the heart.