LOUISVILLE SURGEONS GIVE UPDATE
ON PATIENTS' CONDITION
(LOUISVILLE, Ky) - The University of Louisville surgeons
who implanted the world's first totally implantable replacement
heart at Jewish Hospital on July 2 reported today that the patient,
Bob Tools, has suffered a stroke.
Mr. Tools, who has been living with the AbioCor replacement
heart for 135 days, "had been making good progress overall,"
Dr. Laman Gray explained. "He has enjoyed a relatively high
quality of life - making frequent trips outside the hospital and
beginning to improve his ability to eat."
On Sunday afternoon, November 11, Mr. Tools experienced
weakness on his right side. Gray explained that clots that lead
to stroke are a risk any time a foreign body interacts with circulating
blood. In fact, the risk is explicitly explained to the patient
and patient family during the trial's informed consent process.
"When we put in one artificial valve during standard
open-heart surgery, we must keep that patient on anticoagulation,"
Dr. Rob Dowling said. "This patient has four artificial valves,
and was totally off anticoagulation for several weeks due to his
"The AbioCor is specifically designed to minimize
the risk of stroke - assuming that the patient is adequately anticoagulated.
However, we cannot eliminate stroke as a risk for these patients."
Following the stroke, Mr. Tools was returned to ventilator
support in response to some respiratory distress Tuesday evening.
According to his neurologist, Dr. Lynn Simon, "Strokes frequently
cause problems with swallowing, which causes a build-up of secretions
and leads to problems with airway management. Mr. Tools was intubated
to alleviate this problem."
Mr. Tools has had limited speech since his stroke,
and his current speech is difficult to evaluate due to his intubation.
"Because Mr. Tools is left-handed, there may be some language
ability in his right brain - which could be good news for potential
speech recovery," Simon said. "However, it's too soon
to guess at this point."
Gray, Simon, and Dr. Rob Dowling continue to work
with other colleagues and the Tools family to determine the best
course of treatment.
This is the first neurological event that the doctors
have considered to be significant in the AbioCor experience. "During
the time he (Tools) was off anticoagulation therapy, he experienced
a brief episode where speech became difficult for him," Gray
continued. "However, the problem cleared readily and was not
accompanied by any muscle weakness. The episode did not significantly
impact his function or the progress of his long-term recovery."
When asked about the progress of the
team's second patient, Tom Christerson, Dr. Gray was pleased to
describe some progress following the fevers that were reported
last week. "Mr. Christerson is neurologically normal, and
has been adequately anticoagulated for the vast majority of the
Dowling added, "His CT scans are
completely normal, and his strength is improving. He's spending
more time sitting up each day and lifting his arms and legs off
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