'World First' Surgery Saves a Life
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24 September 2009
A British surgeon saved a dying heart patient by giving him an artificial heart and injecting him with stem cells to rebuild the damaged muscle in a procedure believed to be a world first, it has been revealed.
Professor Stephen Westaby, based at Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital, led the team that operated on Ioannis Manolopoulos in Thessaloniki, Greece, to fit him with the mechanical pump.
Artificial hearts are used in only a handful of patients in the UK and Mr Westaby believes that the use of the patient’s own cells extracted from his bone marrow represents the first time the two treatments have ever been combined.
Mr Manolopoulos, who is recovering after the operation two weeks ago, told Sky News: “If things go well, I must go to church and pray because I feel very lucky to get this device and have the chance of a normal life.”
He had been in hospital for four months after at least two heart attacks and other treatment had failed to improve his condition.
The Jarvic mechanical device will divert blood away from the damaged pumping chamber to allow his heart to repair itself. In many patients the muscle heals so well that the pump can be removed later.
Professor Christos Papakonstantinou, heart surgeon at the Ahepa University Hospital in Thessaloniki told Sky: “We hope the combination of stem cells and pumps will enable patients to enjoy life for many years.”
Mr Westaby said that the NHS currently only funds a handful of operations every year to give pumps to transplant patients who are waiting for a donor heart.
He told the news channel: “I am very frustrated that all the work that I have done back home in the UK has to be translated into patient care in other countries. We have helped to develop implantation programmes in France, Greece and Japan. It’s time we did it in the UK.”
“The economics in the health service are the problem. So many patients could benefit that the costs would be substantial.”