UAB patient becomes first outside Japan with new heart implant

A man from Hayden is now the first person outside of Japan with a new heart implant. Mac McAllister is being treated at UAB for congestive heart failure. It is one of only four sites in the nation, to take part of a new trial testing the Evaheart left ventricular assist device, or Evaheart L-VAD.

More than five million Americans have heart failure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Thousands of these patients must use a mechanical heart pump to stay alive. Now, a new heart pump invented in Japan could accomplish the same goal with fewer side effects.

To be a candidate for the trial, you must have heart failure in the advanced stage and decreased heart function. McAllister had both. Now, a new machine is helping his heart work until he can get a transplant.

"I have this all the time because it is attached and the line does exit through the abdomen," McAllister explained as he showed us the device. "We change batteries in it. We plug it in. It's basically part of me until we can have the heart transplant."

Now, the mechanical pump is helping his heart function and feel good. That's a different experience from the last five years.

"I had two massive heart attacks. After quadruple bypass surgery I was diagnosed with congestive heart failure," he explained. "I couldn't walk very far, couldn't breathe, extreme fatigue."

McAllister needed a transplant, but his condition was so severe he wasn't a candidate.

Dr. James Kirklin at UAB told him about a trial for the new Evaheart L-VAD. He warned him it was new and results are not yet proven.

"In particular this one which has never been put in by myself, by UAB or any surgeon in north America," said Kirklin. "Many patients would shy away from that but Mr. McAllister did not hesitate even when I explained to him in detail, you know I've never put in one of these pumps before."

Kirklin did the surgery December 17th.

Now, McAllister is on the transplant list.

Dr. Salpy Pamboukian is the principal investigator for the trial at UAB.

She says fluid in the device is one component that makes it device different from other, already approved L-VADs.

"There's a small amount of fluid that continuously flushes the device and that's unique to this device," said Pamboukian.

She believes that could lower the risk of stroke.

"We think there might be less blood clots that form within the pump which is one of the dangers of mechanical heart pumps is that blood can clot inside of them, break off and cause a stroke," explained Pamboukian.

Another difference is the way this machine creates more natural circulation, so patients have closer to a normal pulse.

The process usually takes years from phase one to FDA approval. They're hoping for 15 patients in this trial. Next, the FDA will look at the data and consider a larger trial.

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