Indian Hospital Performs ‘Asia’s First Artificial Heart Transplant’

BANGALORE ~ An Indian hospital has successfully performed what it says is Asia’s first artificial heart transplant, on a 54-year-old man, the head of the institution said on Thursday.

Surgeons at Bangalore’s Narayana Hrudayalaya implanted a ventricular assist device, or VAD, in the patient in a four-hour operation on March 20 under the guidance of a team of US experts, hospital chairman doctor Devi Shetty said.

The device, measuring 60 millimeters in diameter and weighing 298 grams, is implanted in the lower part of the chest below the heart. It is connected to an external battery by a cable and has to be recharged every four hours.

“The VAD is a simple centrifugal pump that sucks the blood from the heart and pumps it into the aorta,” Shetty said. “It can pump 10 liters of blood every minute, compared to the normal four or five liters, so it’s quite powerful.”

The aorta circulates oxygenated blood throughout the body.

Surgeons in the US and Europe have implanted such “new-generation” artificial hearts in 220 patients in the past eight years, but the Bangalore operation was the first of its kind in Asia, Shetty said.

The patient, identified as Venkatakrishniah, suffered a heart attack in 2003 and had been forced to leave his job at a state-owned company because he was unable to work even after bypass surgery.

“After the bypass surgery, my condition worsened and I was unable to walk six steps,” Venkatakrishniah was quoted as saying by the Times of India newspaper.

“But (now) … I can walk, climb stairs and am even planning to work.”

The device provides an alternative to heart transplants, out of reach for many because of the limited number of donor organs available and their suitability for patients. Some other types of artificial heart are intended as a “bridge” until a suitable donor organ can be found.

The VAD cost about 3.4 million rupees (US$85,000). Hospital costs, which added up to about 600,000 rupees in Venkatakrishniah’s case, were waived.

Since conducting the transplant, the hospital has received inquires from more than 100 patients in India and overseas, where medical costs are much higher, Shetty said.

“It is of great satisfaction to us,” he added. “It shows India can become a centre of excellence for tertiary healthcare like it has become in software. We have the expertise and the infrastructure and we can get the technology.”

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