Mechanical heart patient walking with assistance

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Last Updated: 2001-07-30 9:39:40 EDT (Reuters Health)

LOUISVILLE, Kentucky (Reuters) – The recipient of the world's first self-contained mechanical heart has been able to walk with help for short distances and travel by wheelchair outside his hospital room barely four weeks since his surgery, surgeons said on Friday.

The patient, whose identity has not been disclosed but is described as a diabetic man in his 50s, is off the ventilator and able to talk during his waking hours, the surgeons who performed the surgery said in a statement. They described his recovery as better than expected.

The man has also been able to write notes to his family, clinical team and friends, University of Louisville surgeons Dr. Laman Gray and Dr. Robert Dowling said.

He has suffered from intermittent stomach bleeding, but his kidney and liver functions remain stable and his lungs are clear, they said.

The man was reported to be as far in end-stage heart disease as anyone could be when the surgery was performed on July 2 at Jewish Hospital in Louisville. Dr. Dowling has scheduled a news briefing for Wednesday afternoon at the hospital.

Since the implant, the patient has had various complications including a procedure to stop bleeding around the grapefruit-sized, titanium and plastic device. Doctors drained fluid from around the device's battery pack and the patient was placed back on a ventilator at that time.

Abiomed Inc., which manufactured the heart, has said it hopes to double the life expectancy of the critically ill patients who receive it. Patients considered for implantation of the device are estimated to have fewer than 30 days to live.

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