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Researchers Say Artificial Heart a Life Saver in Temporary Use

January 15, 1987

BOSTON (AP) _ The Jarvik-7 artificial heart works in saving people from almost certain death as they await human hearts to become available for transplants, researchers reported today.

But in their report in the New England Journal of Medicine, the University of Pittsburgh doctors cautioned against permanent implantation of the devices, which can cause blood clots, infection and strokes.

The researchers said they used the Jarvik-7 on nine gravely ill patients for whom human hearts were not immediately available.

Six survived after being put on the artificial heart for one to 18 days. The device ″provided a bridge from almost certain death to satisfactory cardiac transplantation,″ wrote Dr. Bartley P. Griffith and colleagues.

Three patients died, one of infection while still on the pump. The others died after their transplants.

The Jarvik-7 is one of several pumps being used this way. As of November, that model alone has been used as a temporary pump in 33 patients awaiting transplants around the world, the doctors said.

Five people who received the Jarvik-7 as a permanent replacement suffered mutliple complications, including strokes and infections, and died.

Blood clots are an especially serious problem with the artificial heart. They form inside the device and may be pushed into the body, causing a stroke.

The researchers credited the absence of clots in the Pittsburgh patients to agressive use of blood-thinning drugs, the short time the patients were on the Jarvik-7 and ″good fortune.″

″It underscores the need to use the Jarvik-7 device only if necessary and for as short a period as possible,″ they said.

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