Israeli doctors remove implant in rare procedure, after patient’s heart restarts

Patient’s heart makes miraculous recovery from rare heart disease, allowing doctors to completely remove device that had been keeping him alive for two years.

For the first time in Israel, doctors at the Carmel Hospital in Haifa conducted a rare procedure to remove an artificial heart from a patient. The operation was conducted after Haim Abuhazira’s heart began beating, two years after failing due to disease.

Abuhazira (31), a resident of Netanya, who has been recovering for the surgery that took place two weeks ago, was rushed to the hospital in 2010 after complaining of chest pain. He was operated on and put on a waiting list for a heart transplant.

Doctors diagnosed him with Myocarditis, a rare infection of the heart muscle leading to cardiac failure. Attempts to treat the condition with medication were unsuccessful, and when heart function was reduced to 10 percent, Abuhazira’s doctors decided to implant a LVAD (Left ventricular assist device), a mechanical device that replaces heart function partially or completely, sometimes called an artificial heart.

“The artificial heart is implanted in the chest of the patient alongside the real heart attached to two tubes, one connecting to the left ventricle, from which the blood is pumped to the device and from there to the aorta,” Professor Dan Aravot, chief of cardio-thoracic surgery at Carmel and head of the surgical team and the surgeon, who operated on Abuhazira, explained.

“In addition, the implant is connected to an external power supply by cable, providing the power for the motor of the artificial heart running at 9,000 RPMs,” Aravot added.

After the surgery, Abuhazira father to a young boy working in the high-tech industry was forced to carry a small knapsack holding the devices power supply.

“It was a difficult time for me, full of pain and hardship, affecting all facets of my life,” Abuhazira recalls. “I would shower in a certain way and had to tend to the bandages of the external tube.

But after two years, his heart had made a recovery to such an extent that his doctors decided to remove the implant. The rare and complicated surgery lasted 10 hours, under the supervision of Dr. Ofer Amir.

“In the beginning we implanted the artificial heart as a mediator. Then when the heart began working again we had to decide what kind surgery we should conduct,” Prof. Aravot recounted, on Tuesday.

“The usual surgery in the few cases that had taken place in the past in other countries was a side incision, leaving the tubes in the body. The downside of leaving foreign bodies in the patient’s body is that they can fill with blood clots, which could lead to embolism and infection. In the end we decided to go with the complete removal of the device, because of the patient’s young age and the extent of his recovery.”

A few months ago a similar surgery took place at the Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikva, where a patient with similar recovery to Abuhazira was treated, but in her case it was decided to remove the device but leave in the tubes, because of her medical condition.



By: Revital Blumenfeld