Patient Receives First Artificial Heart in Kentucky

Mar 5, 2012

LEXINGTON, Ky. -  Doctors in Lexington have successfully implanted an artificial heart, marking the first time the procedure was performed in Kentucky.

The SynCardia Freedom Driver beats a steady rhythm that’s keeping 20-year-old Zack Poe alive. It powers the Total Artificial Heart doctors implanted in February. 

“The device is a polyurethane device. It has two pumps, each driven by its own drive line, and it has four mechanical valves," says Dr. Mark Plunkett, chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the University of Kentucky.

Up until a few months ago, Zack was a normal, healthy young man. The Maysville native went to the doctor for an ulcer in January and was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy. Zack says he was fascinated when surgeons presented the artificial heart as a treatment option.

“I know my family wasn’t quite as excited about it as I was. But once we did more research on it, especially then, they saw the statistics and became more comfortable with it.”

The artificial heart allows patients to be mobile instead of laid up in a hospital bed. It serves as a bridge until a transplant is ready. Patients can live for several years with the device, but doctors hope to have a donor heart ready for Zack within a few months.

“I feel a million times better. Because of the outflow volume, I’ve been able to walk longer without pain than I have in months," Zack says.

 Only 29 medical centers across the country are certified to perform the artificial heart procedure. Last week UK surgeons implanted a second artificial heart on a patient from Lexington.