30 years ago, Michael Drummond needed a heart transplant, but unfortunately no matching donor hearts were available. He had end-stage biventricular (both sides) heart failure. But heart transplant surgery was forever changed on September 8, 1985, when Drummond received a Total Artificial Heart, a direct precursor to the modern day SynCardia Total Artificial Heart. It’s designed to replace the failing ventricles and four heart valves. It’s the only approved technology to eliminate the source of end-stage biventricular heart failure.Dr. Robert Jarvik, left, talks about the display of the first Total Artificial Heart used to bridge Michael Drummond to a successful donor heart transplant. (All credit: Arizona Board of Regents/The University of Arizona Health Sciences BioCommunications)
This marked the first time a Total Artificial heart was used to bridge a patient to donor heart transplant. University Medical Center (now Banner—University Medical Center Tucson) cardiac surgeon Dr. Jack Copeland wanted to have the Total Artificial Heart as a backup, after seeing too many heart failure patients perish before a donor heart became available.This picture of Michael Drummond’s surgery includes someone monitoring “Big Blue,” the nickname of the 400-pound driver that powered Drummond’s Total Artificial Heart.
Richard Smith, chief technology officer and one of three founders of SynCardia Systems Inc. was amazed by the instant change in Drummond after he received the implant. Before, he was ashen, and after he turned pink almost immediately, finally receiving a healthy level of blood flow.Dr. Jack Copeland visits bridge to transplant patient Michael Drummond at University Medical Center.
Drummond received his heart after nine days on the Total Artificial Heart. He was watched around the clock to make sure there were no complications, but it worked wonderfully. Drummond, who had been dying 24 hours before the implant, was extubated and removed from bed – and all end-organ function had returned to normal. Drummond lived for five and a half years with the donor heart, eventually dying of B-cell lymphoma.Robert Jarvik shows heart transplant patient Michael Drummond the Total Artificial Heart that kept him alive while awaiting a matching donor heart. The medical team included, from left, Richard Smith, Dr. Mark Levinson and Dr. Jack Copeland.
30 years later, there are over 100 SynCardia Certified Centers trained to implant the Total Artificial Heart. Cardiovascular disease is currently the leading cause of death, and the demand for donor hearts has risen substantially over the years. People can spend months or even years on the waiting list, but SynCardia Total Artificial Heart technology has made it possible for patients not only to survive that long, but live fully while waiting.