Surgeons in Montreal have successfully implanted a long-term mechanical heart in a 65-year-old man, making him the only living Canadian with no pulse.
Gérard Langevin of Coteau-du-Lac, Que., received the HeartMate II device, which is a turbine heart that provides a constant blood flow. On Wednesday, doctors announced Langevin was going home from hospital.
Mechanical heart recipient Gérard Langevin shows a model of his implant at a news conference in Montreal on Wednesday.Mechanical heart recipient Gérard Langevin shows a model of his implant at a news conference in Montreal on Wednesday.
(Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)
Last July, Langevin, 65, said he asked God to let him die, after end-stage heart disease left him barely able to walk. Now, after a mechanical heart was implanted Nov. 23, he says he feels like a new man, who can't wait to go fishing next spring and take up bowling again.
"Before receiving my mechanical heart, I couldn't do anything at all," Langevin recalled. "Even walking a few steps was difficult, because I was so weak and my breathing was so bad."
The HeartMate II device he received is designed to last up to 10 years, compared with three years for other artificial hearts on the market.
The silent device runs on a tiny turbine suspended in a magnetic field. Overall, the HeartMate II is similar in size and weight to a standard D battery.
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"When you don't have contact, there's no friction," said Dr. Renzo Cecere, surgical director of the heart failure and heart transplant program at the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC). "Without friction … there's no reason for the turbine to wear out. It can last a long, long time."
Since the rotating turbine provides a continuous flow of blood, the patient has no pulse. His blood pressure cannot be measured using normal means, Cecere said.
The HeartMate II costs $100,000 and is currently undergoing a clinical trial. It could be several years before it is approved by Health Canada.
Four Canadians have received the HeartMate II device, including Langevin. The first implant was done at the MUHC in June 2006 on a patient who died a short time later.
The procedure was also performed in June at the Toronto General Hospital, on a patient who subsequently received a heart transplant in October. A second patient at the Toronto General received the implant earlier this fall, but died of complications.
In the meantime, the MUHC and Toronto General hope to implant several more of the devices as part of the clinical trials. Only patients who would otherwise die are eligible.
Langevin was not a suitable candidate for a heart transplant because his other organs were failing.