In a unique procedure, a mechanical pump was implanted into a child’s left ventricle (an artificial heart). The implant was conducted when severe deterioration of Michael Kahana’s condition became critical. The race against time began because a human heart was not available. As an interim measure, cardiothoracic surgeons at Schneider and Beilinson hospitals headed by Prof. Dan Arvut decided to implant a left ventricular assist device (an LVAC - a pump) in the child’s left ventricle.
The surgical team included Prof. Arvut, Director of the Cardiothoracic Surgery Department at Beilinson and Schneider Hospitals, Dr. Victor Rubachevsky, Deputy Director of the Cardiothoracic Surgery Department at Beilinson, Dr. Gabi Amir, Director of Cardiothoracic Surgery in Newborns at Schneider and Dr. Elia Peled, senior anesthetist at Schneider. A day after the implant, Michael was able to breathe on his own and communicate with his family and the medical team. He was hospitalized in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit at Schneider headed by Prof. Ovdi Dagan, and he was discharged home yesterday.
About 20 years ago, Schneider Children’s performed an artificial heart implant into a child of 13, but at the time, this was a large device which was placed outside the body of the recipient. A week later, a suitable human heart was donated which was transplanted into the child replacing the exterior device. The patient, now an adult, is doing well.
Prof. Arvut noted that “this procedure represents a new era and a significant advance in cardiothoracic surgery in Israel. The excellent collaboration between Schneider and Beilinson contributed to saving the child’s life.”
Dr. Einat Birk, Director of the Cardiology Institute at Schneider said that “Michael was referred to us several months ago suffering from severe cardiac dysfunction. During the last month, his condition deteriorated so much that we couldn’t wait for a heart donation. It is very exciting to see him today, having recovered and in good condition after the unique surgery that saved his life.”
Maor Kahana, Michael’s mother, said that “at first, we were afraid to have the operation done here due to the lack of experience of performing this in an 11-year-old child, but after meeting the members of the surgical team from Beilinson and Schneider, together with the cardiologists from Schneider, we understood that we were in safe, skilled and professional hands, and that is indeed how it was. We benefitted from the amazing collaboration of both teams from the two hospitals at every stage of the process; they stayed with us all the time, phoned us in support and every member involved visited periodically. And now we look forward to a heart transplant. Towards that end, we would like to state that even though Michael has been saved through this advanced technology, and by skilled doctors who are treating him, it is important to mention that if there been greater awareness in the country about organ donation, we could have skipped this intermediate step which has its own risks and dangers, and be post-transplant. We thank the team of surgeons and cardiologists from Schneider and Beilinson, and the incredible nursing staff who supported us and treated our son with the outstanding devotion, and who reassured us during his stay here. We hope that our story will help even a little to raise awareness about the importance of organ donation in Israel and accord the saving of both children and adult lives.”
The implant of an artificial heart is performed to save the lives of patients suffering from severe cardiac dysfunction, who are unable to wait for a heart transplant or are not good candidates for this procedure due to other causes such as a history of disease, age and so on. The artificial heart is implanted into the patient’s chest without removing the failing heart and overtakes its function. The pump acts as a “bridge” to extend life until a transplant can be done, or as a permanent solution. After implantation, the recipient can return to full activity and lead a normal life with the exception of contact with water (swimming pool, showering, beach) due to the fear of wetting the batteries that operate the pump which are attached outside the body.
The dramatic advances in technology that have ensued over recent years have led to a new generation of artificial hearts that signify its grandeur. The high rates of success herald a new generation of care for cardiac patients.