UW News

June 12, 1997

Implanted pump keeps Puyallup man’s heart beating as he awaits a transplant at UW Medical Center

In the first such instance in the Seattle area, a Puyallup man is being kept alive at University of Washington Medical Center with the help of a new type of implanted heart pump, until a donor heart becomes available for transplant.

Monty Munroe, 52, was admitted to UW Medical Center on Feb. 13 with severe heart failure, the result of coronary artery disease that led to three heart attacks in 1995. His condition continued to deteriorate once he was hospitalized, as heart stimulants and other medications failed to stabilize him.

His doctors, cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Edward Verrier and cardiologist Dr. Daniel Fishbein, determined that he would not survive until a donor heart became available, without the assistance of a heart pump.

On April 13, as Munroe’s condition continued to deteriorate, Verrier implanted a device that takes over the pumping function of the left ventricle of the heart, whose function is to send oxygen-rich blood from the lungs throughout the body.

Munroe received an air-driven version of the pump, which is powered by an VCR-sized console to which he is tethered. The device can be switched to battery power, allowing him to move around. His diseased heart remains in place.

“Mr. Munroe has done very well with this device,” said Verrier. “He is now a better candidate for transplantation. His case is the first in an important new program at UW Medical Center.”

“It’s taken me from being totally bedridden, to being mobile and feeling good,” said Munroe, who will likely remain hospitalized until a donor heart becomes available. “I walk through the hallways twice a day, and I take an exercise class once a day. This pump is allowing me to get strong enough to have a transplant.” Munroe, whose weight had dropped to 130 pounds before receiving the heart pump, commented that he is looking forward to getting back to leading a normal, productive life once he receives a new heart.

UW heart doctors are gratified to have the new device available for patients who are too sick to survive unassisted until a donor heart becomes available. “We’re excited about this,” said Fishbein. “It’s a very important development for our program. We expect to use the device approximately four to 10 times a year as a bridge to transplant.” UW Medical Center performs about 20 to 25 heart transplants annually.

“Technological advances have improved the mechanical heart to allow it to be used much more extensively than in past years,” said Verrier. “Not only is it being used in critically ill patients as a bridge to sustain them until transplant, but it is being used on a permanent basis in patients who do not meet the criteria to receive a donor heart.”

Called the HeartMate LVAS (left ventricular-assist system) the pump implanted at the UW is made by Thermo Cardio Systems Inc. It is the only implantable heart device thus far approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a bridge to transplant. Clinical studies are underway to evaluate an electric version of the HeartMate LVAS, powered by wearable batteries that allow the patient additional mobility.