What is a Total Artificial Heart (TAH)?

Ventricles are responsible for pumping blood out of the heart and into the body. When the ventricles are damaged or fail due to disease, a total artificial heart (TAH) can be surgically installed in the lower chamber of the heart. This mechanism serves as a pump to provide blood flow.

A TAH is not a destination therapy, which means that this device is intended as a bridge to a final therapy/treatment such as a heart organ transplant. If you meet the criteria, your cardiologist may suggest a TAH be used to assist your heart, which also helps other organs, such as your liver and kidney, to keep functioning at a suitable level. This is a step used to improve and extend the quality of life as a bridge to a destination solution, such as a heart transplant or ventricular assist device (VAD).

The artificial heart, Aeson®, developed by French medical device company CARMAT, is designed to solve the limitations of left-ventricular assist devices (LVAD), which pump blood in just one chamber, by pumping blood in both heart chambers. Aeson also contains biosensors that detect the patient’s blood pressure and position and automatically adapt cardiac output according to the sensor information. It is fully implanted as a heart replacement and powered by a portable external power supply.

The varying pumping ability of the Aeson device increases its viability among more patients. More than 3,500 individuals are awaiting a heart transplant in the U.S. and 900 of them are women. There are few treatment options for patients with biventricular heart disease, meaning both the left and right sides of the heart are not pumping blood adequately.

The TAH is in a clinical trial and has been proven successful in aiding patients with heart failure when other treatments have not worked. The device is medically approved in Europe, where approximately 20 devices have been implanted. The first Aeson artificial heart in North America was implanted in July at Duke University.

Recently, the cardiac surgery team at UofL Health – Jewish Hospital completed the third TAH implant in the United States in partnership with UofL Health – Trager Transplant Center. Jewish Hospital is just one of four programs in the nation approved to perform this clinical trial procedure. This third North American implantation is the first in the world to involve a female patient. The patient who received the nation’s second Aeson implant, on Aug. 20, 2021, continues to improve at Jewish Hospital.

This is not the first time the University of Louisville and Jewish Hospital have made artificial heart history. On July 2, 2001, UofL cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr. Laman Gray led the surgical team that implanted the first self-contained artificial heart in the United States at Jewish Hospital. The AbioCor artificial heart was implanted into Robert Tools, who lived five months on the device.

The surgical team also performed the first heart transplant in Kentucky at Jewish Hospital in 1984.

If you would like to learn more about treatment options for your heart disease, speak with your primary care physician who will refer you to a cardiologist. Don’t have a primary care physician? Use our UofL Physicians provider finder to find the right caregiver for you!

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About Siddharth Pahwa, M.D.

Siddharth V. Pahwa, M.D., is a cardiovascular surgeon at UofL Health. Dr. Pahwa attended Kasturba Medical College where he earned both his Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery degree and Doctor of Medicine degree. He also completed an internship with the Kasturba Medical College before completing his residency with the Government Medical College in general surgery. Dr. Pahwa then earned his Master of Surgery degree from Sri Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences before completing his fellowship at the Mayo Clinic in advanced cardiovascular surgery. His specialty includes cardiovascular & thoracic surgery and transplant, with interests in coronary artery bypass surgery, aortic surgery, heart transplant and ventricular assist devices. Dr. Pahwa is an assistant professor in the Department of Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery at the University of Louisville. In 2011, he was awarded Best Outgoing Resident in General Surgery. Dr. Pahwa was part of the UofL Health team that implanted a total artificial heart in the first female patient in the world. “The patient always comes first. I try to care for each patient as if they were a member of my family”. Dr. Pahwa is married and has two daughters and enjoys his time on the tennis courts and with family.

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