Western Pennsylvania man gets latest version of artificial heart

Pittsburg Tribune-Review | Luis Fabregas
The newest mechanical heart not only sounds human, it is powered by a pump small enough that a patient could go home while awaiting a transplant.

Made by Arizona-based SynCardia, the next-generation artificial heart uses the same technology as the popular mechanical versions of the 1980s -- minus the 400-pound pump that forced patients to remain in the hospital until a heart became available for transplant. SynCardia's heart has a portable pump weighing 13 pounds that could fit in a backpack

A man who showed up at Forbes Regional Hospital in Monroeville last week complaining of chest pain became the first person in Western Pennsylvania to get the new device.

Doctors attempted cardiopulmonary resuscitation for nearly an hour before transferring the man, 63, to Allegheny General Hospital in the North Side, where physicians identified him as a candidate for the SynCardia device while awaiting a donor heart for transplant. The man, who is not being identified, remains in critical condition in the hospital's coronary intensive care unit, said Dr. Stephen Bailey, director of Allegheny General's division of cardiac surgery.

"He is awake and interacting with family," Bailey told reporters during a news briefing on Thursday in the hospital.

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