World's first mechanical LVAD transplant performed

On Friday, October 15th, Bradley Cantley, 41, headed home from UC San Diego Medical Center connected to a lifesaving heart machine called a left ventricular assisted device (LVAD). For patients with advanced heart failure, the mechanical pump rapidly improves circulation throughout the body and serves as a bridge to transplant. Cantley is the first of many patients, locally and globally, who will benefit from the expanded heart surgery program at UC San Diego Health System.

''Left ventricular assisted devices bring healing, oxygen-rich blood to all the organs of the body,'' said Jack Copeland, MD, professor of surgery and director of cardiac transplantation and mechanical circulatory support at UC San Diego Health System. ''Some patients recover with these implantable devices because the heart is able to rest and recuperate. Others keep the LVAD until a donor heart becomes available.''

Cantley attributes his heart disease to obesity. He weighed 358 pounds at the time of his heart attack and has since lost more than 200 pounds.

''Prior to the heart pump I was so short of breath I would have to take intermittent breaks just to breathe in,'' said Cantley. ''Now I can get up and walk around without huffing and without having to steady myself. I can see the improvement.''

Heart failure, if untreated, leads to a slow process of starvation and suffocation. The liver is unable to produce proteins; the kidney does not eliminate toxins, and the digestive system cannot absorb nutrition. Due to retention of fluids, breathing and mobility also become limited.

Copeland, an international expert in circulatory support devices, says that heart devices are just the next step in the modern treatment of heart failure. Approximately 40 percent of patients with an LVAD receive a heart transplant one year later.