Physicians say mechanical heart patient has improved

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Last Updated: 2001-07-16 16:21:05 EDT (Reuters Health)

LOUISVILLE, Kentucky (Reuters) – Surgeons said on Monday that the world's first self-contained mechanical heart recipient has shown improvement in his liver, lung and kidney function and has begun mild exercises to rebuild muscle tone he lost in the end-stages of heart failure.

Drs. Laman Gray and Robert Dowling of Jewish Hospital in Louisville, who implanted the experimental heart on July 2, said the patient has done better than they had expected before the surgery. But both cautioned that the patient, whose identity is secret but is described as a diabetic man in his 50s, is extremely sick and will be so for a very long time.

The physicians said the patient's kidney function has returned to where it was a year ago, and his liver function looks better than they had hoped. His lung function, a key concern in any heart surgery, looked good, they said.

The physicians said the patient has experienced some gastrointestinal bleeding, but described the problem as minor given the extent of the patient's surgery. Currently, the patient has no fever or any other signs of infection.

Monday's news briefing was only the second since the groundbreaking procedure was performed 15 days ago, and the absence of regular updates has sparked criticism from medical ethicists and news organizations.

The hospital has said it is bound by a contractual agreement with Abiomed Inc., the device's manufacturer, to limit the release of information about the patient.

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