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Batteries Included: Heart Patient Goes Home with Lifesaving Device


November 01, 2010  |  

On Friday, October 15th, Bradley Cantley, 41, headed home from UC San Diego Medical Center connected to a lifesaving heart machine called a left ventricular assisted device (LVAD). For patients with advanced heart failure, the mechanical pump rapidly improves circulation throughout the body and serves as a bridge to transplant. Cantley is the first of many patients, locally and globally, who will benefit from the expanded heart surgery program at UC San Diego Health System.

Listen to Bradley share his lifesaving LVAD experience at UC San Diego Health System.

You Tube link:




“Left ventricular assisted devices bring healing, oxygen-rich blood to all the organs of the body,” said Jack Copeland, MD, professor of surgery and director of cardiac transplantation and mechanical circulatory support at UC San Diego Health System. “Some patients recover with these implantable devices because the heart is able to rest and recuperate. Others keep the LVAD until a donor heart becomes available.”

Cantley attributes his heart disease to obesity. He weighed 358 pounds at the time of his heart attack and has since lost more than 200 pounds.

“Prior to the heart pump I was so short of breath I would have to take intermittent breaks just to breathe in,” said Cantley. “Now I can get up and walk around without huffing and without having to steady myself. I can see the improvement.”

Heart failure, if untreated, leads to a slow process of starvation and suffocation. The liver is unable to produce proteins; the kidney does not eliminate toxins, and the digestive system cannot absorb nutrition. Due to retention of fluids, breathing and mobility also become limited.

Copeland, an international expert in circulatory support devices, says that heart devices are just the next step in the modern treatment of heart failure. Approximately 40 percent of patients with an LVAD receive a heart transplant one year later.

In addition to his work with LVADs, Copeland is recognized for being the first surgeon in the world to successfully use the Total Artificial Heart as a bridge to transplant. In November 2010, UC San Diego Health System will be certified to offer the SynCardia temporary Total Artificial Heart. UCSD Medical Center will be the only hospital in California to offer the novel device.

The UCSD heart team offers the Impella Catheter Device, ABIOMED ventricular assist device and Tandem Heart, as well as the Heartmate II which was implanted in Cantley. For patients who are not a fit for a device, gene therapy and adult stem cell clinical trials may be an option.

According to the American Heart Association, heart and vascular disease are the leading cause of death in the United States accounting for 38 percent of all deaths. Nearly 5 million Americans are living with heart failure and 550,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. Only about 2,500 donor hearts become available each year in the U.S., amplifying a need for devices and medical therapies that extend the life of patients.

In April 2011, UC San Diego Health System will open the state-of-the-art four-level Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center (CVC). As part of the region’s only top-ranked academic health system, the Center’s multidisciplinary programs will unite leaders in the fields of cardiovascular research, cardiology, surgery, neurology, emergency medicine and biomedical engineering to battle heart disease.

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Media Contact: Jackie Carr,, 619-543-6163

About Dr. Jack Copeland

Copeland, professor of surgery and director of cardiac transplantation and mechanical circulatory support at UC San Diego Health System, was formerly chief of cardiothoracic surgery and co-director of the University of Arizona’s (UA) Sarver Heart Center. He arrived at UA from Stanford University in 1977 to develop a transplant program and performed Arizona’s first heart transplant in 1979. During his tenure, Copeland’s team performed the world’s first use a total artificial heart as a “bridge to transplant,” Arizona’s first double-lung transplant and the first US use of a “Berlin Heart” assist device for children.


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