Baptist Health Implants Arkansas’ First Total Artificial Heart

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Baptist Health Medical Center-Little Rock has implanted the state’s first Total Artificial Heart on a 21-year-old from Jonesboro, Arkansas. The recipient, Chadarius Johnson, is recovering from the groundbreaking surgery, which took place on Tuesday, April 18.

The Syncardia Total Artificial Heart is a battery-operated device that contains the same components as a real human heart and serves as a bridge to transplant.

Baptist Health has a long history of heart milestones. In 1989, the hospital performed the state’s first heart transplant, and then again in 1999 it introduced left ventricular assist devices (LVAD) to Arkansas. Since 1989, 260 heart transplants and more than 300 HeartMates, a type of LVAD, have been implanted along with other mechanical support devices. In 2015, Baptist Health was selected as one of only 60 centers in the country to evaluate the HeartMate III, the latest advancement in mechanical circulatory support, and currently is in the top three enrolling centers in the country. Baptist Health has the only comprehensive heart failure management program in Arkansas that can offer patients Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO), LVAD, Total Artificial Heart and heart transplant.

“Mr. Johnson has been on the heart transplant waiting list since January 2017, and due to the difficulty of finding a suitable donor heart, we implanted the artificial heart as the final option to save his life,” said Dr. John Ransom, surgical director of the Baptist Health Heart Transplant Institute. “This device is designed to buy him time while a donor heart is found.”

Most patients with end-stage heart failure would have received an LVAD. But for Johnson, an LVAD wasn’t enough. He had already been placed on ECMO, a treatment that provides support for patients with extreme cardiac and respiratory failure, to stabilize his condition. While waiting for a donor heart, the only option for Johnson was a Total Artificial Heart.

“The surgery went well,” said Dr. Ransom. “Now, we need for him to continue to improve as we wait for a donor heart. While the number of patients diagnosed with advanced heart failure continues to rise, the number of donor hearts has remained the same.”

Nearly 1,700 Total Artificial Hearts have been implanted across the globe. Similar to a heart transplant, the Total Artificial Heart replaces both failing heart ventricles and the four native heart valves. There are no motors or electronics of any type inside the body. All electronics are located outside the body in the pneumatic driver, which powers the Total Artificial Heart and monitors blood flow.

Baptist Health is an Arkansas-based, locally owned and managed, not-for-profit, and faith-based healthcare organization. Baptist Health is also Arkansas’ most comprehensive healthcare organization with more than 9,100 employees operating nine hospitals. For more information about Baptist Health, call Baptist Health HealthLine at 1-888-BAPTIST.