Intermountain Health’s artificial heart program celebrates 30 years

Oct 24, 2023, 9:00 AM

Dr. Stephen McKellar, Intermountain Health Care Cardiovascular Department chair and heart surgeon, ...

Dr. Stephen McKellar, Intermountain Health Care Cardiovascular Department chair and heart surgeon, holds a HeartMate3 during an event to celebrate the Intermountain Artificial Heart Program’s 30 years of life-saving work at the Intermountain Medical Center Doty Education Auditorium in Murray on Monday, Oct. 23, 2023. (Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)

(Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Dozens of Utah patients joined Intermountain Health to celebrate a milestone on Monday, 30 years of life-saving care through its artificial heart program. 

Intermountain’s Artificial Heart Program started in 1993. The program was designed to help Utahns experiencing heart failure by providing mechanical support, according to the press release. 

Dr. Stephen McKellar, the Intermountain Health Cardiovascular Department chair said, “30 years is a big deal … this field is really only 31 or 32 years old.”

Intermountain Health said that its surgeons have implanted 464 life-saving devices. Twenty of those devices were “total artificial hearts.” 

Waiting for a donation

Intermountain Health said that when a patient is waiting for a donor heart, artificial heart devices can help them heal until a match becomes available. 

Carla Pardini said her husband, Victor was the eighth artificial heart recipient in Utah. 

“In 1994, at the age of 43, [he] had a massive heart attack out of the blue … his heart muscle was killed during that heart attack,” Pardini said. 

Victor became a candidate for the then-experimental LVAD. The device kept him alive for 143 days until a heart became available for transplant. 

After his transplant, Victor lived for another 19 and a half years, according to Pardini. 

McKellar said that in the last 30 years, the technology has become more commonplace. 

Those who are not eligible for heart transplants can also receive artificial heart devices, according to the press release. Those who are ineligible, referred to as destination patients, can live with the devices permanently. 

Intermountain health said the longest duration a patient has lived with an artificial heart device was “more than 11 years.” 

McKellar said that “[Intermountain has] refined the implant process. We’ve started to put these in patients earlier, so they’re not on their last day or last week of life and their outcomes are much better.”

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Intermountain Health’s artificial heart program celebrates 30 years