SEPT. 19, 2005 | A 9-year-old hurricane evacuee from Louisiana received an artificial heart in a successful Sept. 15 procedure led by University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) surgeon Michiaki Imamura, M.D., at Arkansas Children’s Hospital (ACH).
With his heart failing, Jacques Brumfield was admitted to Children’s Hospital in New Orleans just before Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast. He was born with a condition called Tetralogy of Fallot, which causes blood with low oxygen levels to be circulated to the body. He had undergone surgery to correct this defect, but over time the repair failed, doing damage to his heart.
When conditions deteriorated in New Orleans after the hurricane, doctors there moved Jacques to a Baton Rouge hospital where he was soon flown by jet to Little Rock. After arriving Sept. 6 with his father, Jacques was then examined by Imamura, an assistant professor of cardiothoracic surgery in the UAMS College of Medicine and a pediatric cardiovascular surgeon at ACH. Imamura recommended a procedure rarely performed in the United States.
“After evaluating Jacques, Dr. Imamura quickly realized that his heart was failing and intervention was necessary,” said Robert Morrow, M.D., a professor of pediatrics in the UAMS College of Medicine and chief of pediatric cardiology at ACH. “We knew that Jacques would need to be placed on the heart transplant waiting list. To buy him the time to get him to the transplant, we decided it would be necessary to get approval to use the Berlin Heart pump.”
The Berlin Heart pump is a ventricular assist device intended to serve as a “bridge to heart transplant” but is only approved on a case-by-case, emergency basis in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). That permission was granted, the second time the blood pump device has been used at ACH to treat heart failure until a heart transplantation procedure can be performed.
At this point, 26 other pediatric patients in the United States have had the Berlin Heart used as a bridge to transplant. The technology was developed in Berlin, in the 1980s to meet the need of pediatric patients with a smaller version of a heart pump. It was first used in Berlin in 1994. These pumps, which vary in size but are no bigger than an adult’s fist, are used in about 120 pediatric cases in Europe each year, and more than a thousand adult cases.
On Sept. 15, Imamura successfully attached the pump to Jacques’ heart in an eight-hour operation.
“The surgical procedure went smoothly. We have moved him to the unit where we will monitor him and the pump very closely. He is breathing well, but we will continue to watch his blood pressure and watch for bleeding,” Imamura said.
As Jacques recovers from the operation he and his family will continue to wait for a heart and rebuild their lives in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.