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Doctors Say Heart Healed Self While Artificial Organ Pumped

April 11, 1995

BERLIN (AP) _ A man’s heart healed itself while a machine helped pump his blood for five months, doctors said Tuesday, suggesting that such devices may help some heart patients avoid transplants.

For five months, a left ventricular assist device took over most of the work of the patient’s left ventricle, the main pumping chamber of the heart, Dr. Roland Hetzer of the German Heart Center said in a statement.

The devices are used as a temporary measure to help patients survive while waiting for donor hearts. The natural heart is left in the body.

Hetzer said the case was the first in the world in which the patient’s heart healed itself while the device was in place. The device was removed five weeks ago and the patient was reportedly feeling well.

Tim Myers, clinical research coordinator at the Texas Heart Institute in Houston, said Tuesday it was not clear to him whether it was the first case. But, he said, ``it is still a significant milestone.″

The newspaper Die Welt on Tuesday identified the patient as Matthias Linzmeier, 38. Linzmeier suffered from cardiomyopathy, which causes symptoms like shortness of breath and water in the lungs.

In September, he had acute heart failure and was taken to the German Heart Center. The device was implanted to help his heart function.

Five weeks ago, when Linzmeier suffered from a blood clot _ a typical complication of the machines _ Hetzer reduced the capacity of the artificial organ.

In doing so, Hetzer realized the patient’s heart had completely healed and was able to take over the work of pumping blood.

``This could be a new way to treat critically ill patients whose only option before was a transplant,″ Hetzer said.

The case provides the first proof that certain heart illnesses can be cured if the heart is given the opportunity to rest, he said.

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