Successful Artificial Heart Implants

University Medicine: Cardiac surgeons in Linz are breaking new medical ground.

Operation by Prof. Zierer
Operation by Prof. Zierer

In 2019, surgeons at the Kepler University Hospital in Upper Austria successfully implanted an artificial heart in an adult patient. The procedure was without complications and following the recovery phase, the patient was able to resume a normal life. Additional procedures followed. The hospital created a medically innovative LVAD (left ventricular assist device) artificial heart program in Upper Austria for patients suffering from severe heart disease and heart failure. Individuals suffering so-called "terminal heart failure" are eligible for LVAD implantation. Univ. Prof. Dr. Andreas Zierer, head of the Department of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery, remarked: "This means a heart - or heart muscle weakness - in the terminal stage and after all other available treatment options - such as drugs, coronary stents, bypass surgery, etc. - have been fully exhausted." In most cases, the procedure is a temporary solution until a human donor organ is available. In some cases of cardiac failure, the heart can even recover enough to allow the LVAD to be removed after a certain period of time. Some patients also decide not to have a transplant and keep the artificial heart. Prof. Zierer added: "In the meantime, this type of artificial heart can function for up to 10 years or longer without having to be replaced."

A High Quality of Life
When left ventricular assist devices (LVAD) are implanted, the patient's own heart remains in the body. The LVAD supports - or relieves - the left ventricle. In most cases, an LVAD is implanted in the chest and connected to the power supply and there is a control system outside of the body via a cable connection through the abdominal wall (to an external power supply). This pump performs the heart's function, and the patient immediately feels better and can even return to a largely normal life after rehab. Prof. Zierer added: "Thanks to the partnership between the JKU’s Faculty of Medicine and the Kepler University Hospital, patients in Upper Austria patients can be helped by using the latest high-tech treatment methods, such as artificial heart implant." The surgeon acquired part of his comprehensive expertise at a clinic in Frankfurt. In the future, the program will be expanded to 10 to 15 LVAD implants a year.