Macomb County Man Receives Artificial Heart at Henry Ford Hospital

February 15, 2018
Hassan Nemeh MD


DETROIT – A 56-year-old Macomb County man has become the first successful recipient of an artificial heart at Henry Ford Hospital.

“We literally pulled him from death’s grip,” said Henry Ford Hospital cardio-thoracic surgeon Hassan Nemeh, who performed the procedure.

The patient is recovering well, walking laps in his unit at Henry Ford Hospital as he heals. A pastor and retired law enforcement officer, he plans to discuss the procedure and his wait for a heart transplant publicly sometime in the next few weeks.

Led by Nemeh, the surgical team removed the patient’s native ventricles and hooked him to the SynCardia artificial heart on Dec. 11, 2017. The heart’s mechanisms are contained in an 18-pound pack that stays with the patient.

The man had been suffering from cardiac sarcoidosis, a disease that infiltrates organs of the body and causes abnormal inflammation and malfunction. Diagnosed with the condition more than three years ago, the patient eventually suffered cardiomyopathy, or thickening and dysfunction, in both sides of his heart.

Doctors were able to manage the condition with medication, and the patient was placed on the transplant list in September 2017. But just after Thanksgiving 2017, his heart started to fail despite medications. 

His Henry Ford Hospital medical team inserted an intra-aortic balloon pump, then a temporary left ventricular assist device – or temporary LVAD – to help his heart keep pumping. Both initially helped keep him alive. But then doctors discovered his heart was again malfunctioning despite the interventions.

Henry Ford Hospital’s multi-disciplinary Heart Failure Team determined the FDA-approved artificial heart was the only option left. The SynCardia Total Artificial Heart, which has been in use for more than 32 years, replaces both failing heart ventricles and the four heart valves. According to data published in the New England Journal of Medicine from the 10-year pivotal clinical study which led to FDA approval, 79% of patients who received the Total Artificial Heart were bridged to transplant. The longest a patient has been supported by the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart is more than 4 years. 

The patient and his wife agreed that he wanted to proceed. He received the artificial heart in a 5-hour procedure that included a team of about a dozen medical professionals from the Henry Ford Heart & Vascular Institute and the Henry Ford Transplant Institute.

 “The operation went smoothly,” Dr. Nemeh said. “Due to the advanced level of illness, he has been progressing very slowly. But his general condition is much, much better and we are grateful we were able to help him with this advanced technology. We are waiting for his strength to return and we will activate him back on the heart/kidney transplant list.”

Henry Ford Health System is one of only three programs in the State of Michigan which provides comprehensive surgical therapy for the treatment of advanced heart failure, including heart transplant, LVAD and the artificial heart.  In 2018, the Henry Ford Transplant Institute is celebrating 50 years of providing the gift of life.

“Henry Ford Health System is proud to add the artificial heart as an option for our patients,” said Henry Kim, head of the Edith and Benson Ford Heart & Vascular Institute at Henry Ford Hospital. “It aligns perfectly with our emphasis on offering advanced treatments for all aspects of heart disease.”

About Henry Ford Health System and Henry Ford Innovations
Henry Ford Health System is a six-hospital system headquartered in Detroit, Michigan. It is one of the nation's leading comprehensive, integrated health systems, recognized for clinical excellence and innovation. Henry Ford Health System provides both health insurance and health care delivery, including acute, specialty, primary and preventive care services backed by excellence in research and education. Henry Ford Health System is led by President & CEO Wright Lassiter III. Visit to learn more.

Tammy Battaglia
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