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Heidelberg Cardiac Surgeons implant world’s first new DeBakey Heart Assist Device

New heart device is the smallest and lightest of all approved Ventricular Assist Devices in Europe

At the end of July 2009, a team of cardiac surgeons headed by Professor Dr. Matthias Karck, Director of the Department of Cardiac Surgery at Heidelberg University Hospital, was the first in the world to implant the HeartAssist 5 ventricular assist device, the modern version of the DeBakey VAD.

The device augments the pumping function of the left ventricle in an especially effective, gentle and quiet manner. The pump weighs 92 grams and is made of titanium and plastic. It pumps blood from the weakened or failed left ventricle into the aorta.

“Following the 3.5 hour surgery, the patient is doing fine,” reports Professor Karck. The 50-year-old woman suffered from heart failure that could not be effectively treated with medication. Since a heart transplant was not an option due to medical reasons, the implanted heart pump will now assist her heart permanently.

Bridging the waiting time for a heart transplant

“The heart pump can also be used as a bridge-to-transplant while the patient waits for a matching donor heart,” says Dr. Arjang Ruhparwar, senior registrar in the Department of Cardiac Surgery in Heidelberg. When a donor heart becomes available, the pump and the diseased heart are both removed and replaced by the new donor heart.

The DeBakey VAD was first developed in the 1990s in cooperation with NASA by Professor Michael DeBakey, the renowned American cardiac surgeon at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, who died in 2008 at the age of 99. The modern version of the device, the HeartAssist 5, is manufactured by US company MicroMed Cardiovascular. It is considered to be a fifth generation VAD because it can be implanted adjacent to the heart and has an exclusive flow probe that provides direct, accurate measurement of blood flow from the left ventricle to the aorta. The new miniature device is light, easy-to-handle and can be monitored and controlled externally.

Patients can live a normal life at home

“The new device has great advantages – at only 92 g, it is the smallest and lightest approved VAD in Europe that can completely replace the function of the left ventricle and it works very quietly and effectively with a high flow coefficient,” explains Professor Karck. Thus, patients are able to live a nearly normal life at home.

In Europe, the HeartAssist 5™ has CE Marks for both adult and pediatric use. In the U.S., the HeartAssist 5, formerly DeBakey VAD® Child, is the only FDA-approved pediatric VAD. A bridge-to-transplant IDE clinical study is currently underway in the U.S. for adults.

Contact person:

Professor Dr. Matthias Karck
Medical Director
Department II Cardiac Surgery
Surgery Clinic in Heidelberg
phone: +49 6221 / 56 62 72
e-mail: Matthias.karck(at)
Information in the Internet:
About the device:
About Heidelberg University Hospital, Department of Cardiac Surgery:
Heidelberg University Hospital and Medical Faculty:
Internationally recognized patient care, research, and teaching
Heidelberg University Hospital is one of the largest and most prestigious medical centers in Germany. The Medical Faculty of Heidelberg University belongs to the internationally most renowned biomedical research institutions in Europe. Both institutions have the common goal of developing new therapies and implementing them rapidly for patients. With about 7,000 employees, training and qualification is an important issue. Every year, around 500,000 patients are treated on an inpatient or outpatient basis in more than 40 clinics and departments with 1,600 beds. Currently, about 3,100 future physicians are studying in Heidelberg; the reform Heidelberg Curriculum Medicinale (HeiCuMed) is one of the top medical training programs in Germany.

Requests by journalists:
Dr. Annette Tuffs
Head of Public Relations and Press Department
University Hospital of Heidelberg and
Medical Faculty of Heidelberg
Im Neuenheimer Feld 672
D-69120 Heidelberg
phone: +49 6221 / 56 45 36
fax: +49 6221 / 56 45 44
e-mail: annette.tuffs(at)

Dr. Matthias Karck | EurekAlert!
Further information:[backPid]=7868&tx_ttnews[pS]=125050

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