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Press Release:

University of Kentucky Medical Center Discharges
State's 1st SynCardia Total Artificial Heart Patient

20-Year-Old Zack Poe Leaves the Hospital to Wait for a Matching Donor Heart at Home


Zack_Poe1On March 5, 20-year-old Zack Poe became the first SynCardia Total Artificial Heart patient in Kentucky to be discharged from the hospital to wait for a matching donor heart at home using the Freedom® portable driver.

TUCSON, Ariz. – March 21, 2012 – SynCardia Systems, Inc., manufacturer of the world's first and only FDA, Health Canada and CE (Europe) approved Total Artificial Heart, announced today that on March 5, University of Kentucky Medical Center (UK) in Lexington discharged its first patient to be implanted with the SynCardia temporary Total Artificial Heart. Zack Poe, 20, is the first patient in the state to leave the hospital to wait for a matching donor heart at home using the Freedom® portable driver to power his Total Artificial Heart.

"The mobility that the Freedom driver allows is a great benefit to patients who receive the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart," said Dr. Jay Zwischenberger, chair of the UK Department of Surgery. "Zack will be able to go home and enjoy his life, rather than waiting months in a hospital room for a donor heart."

Zack's journey began on Jan. 2, 2012, when he went to the doctor for an ulcer and was referred to an emergency room. After being diagnosed with pneumonia, he was given two liters of fluid, which resulted in immediate swelling. Doctors started Zack on medication and performed an ECHO to see what was wrong. The ECHO showed that Zack's ejection fraction -- a measurement of how much blood the heart pumps out to the body during each beat -- was less than 10 percent. In a healthy individual, it is usually 55 to 75%. Zack was referred to UK for consideration of advanced treatment options. About a week and a half after his initial diagnosis, his liver began to fail.  

Zack_Poe2Dr. Mark Plunkett (right) explains the SynCardia temporary Total Artificial heart during a news conference held at University of Kentucky Medical Center on March 5, with Dr. Charles Hoopes and patient Zack Poe. Later that day, Zack became the first Total Artificial Heart patient in the state to be discharged from the hospital using the Freedom® portable driver.

"Apart from his heart failure, Zack is a strong, healthy young man," said Dr. Charles Hoopes, director of the UK Heart and Lung Transplant Program and the Mechanical Cardiac Support Program. "But because of the severity of the heart failure, we felt he was the perfect candidate to receive the Total Artificial Heart while he waits on an appropriate donor heart."

To save Zack's life, UK Medical Center set a record as the fastest hospital to complete all four phases of certification required to implant the Total Artificial Heart, discharging Zack home just 25 days after beginning the certification process.

"The operation went really smoothly. Zack was off the breathing tube the next day and was up and walking around within several days and has had a remarkable recovery," said UK surgeon Dr. Mark Plunkett, chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery and the co-director of the Linda and Jack Gill Heart Institute.

Zack_Poe3SynCardia Total Artificial Heart patient Zack Poe enjoys his newfound freedom from the hospital while waiting for a heart transplant.

When doctors first told Zack about the Total Artificial Heart, he said he was receptive to the idea because it would keep him healthy enough until he could receive a heart transplant.

"I feel a million times better. Because of the outflow volume, I've been able to walk longer without pain than I have in months," said Zack.

A second UK patient was implanted with the Total Artificial Heart on Feb. 29 and is doing well. Dr. Hoopes said they hope to perform six implants a year, with an ultimate goal of 10 to 12 annually.

The Freedom driver is CE approved for use in Europe and undergoing an FDA-approved Investigational Device Exemption (IDE) clinical study in the U.S.

View news coverage of Kentucky's first discharge
Read press release from UK Medical Center

CAUTION – The Freedom® portable driver is an investigational device, limited by United States law to investigational use.


SynCardia Systems, Inc. in Tucson, Arizona is the privately-held owner and manufacturer of the world's first and only FDA, Health Canada and CE approved Total Artificial Heart for use as a bridge to transplant for people suffering from end-stage biventricular heart failure in which both ventricles can no longer pump enough blood for a person to survive.

More than 1,350 implants of the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart accounts for over 400 patient years of life on the device. Since January 2011 more than 400 SynCardia Hearts have been implanted.

The youngest patient to receive a SynCardia Heart was 9 years old; the oldest was 76 years old. The longest a patient has lived with a SynCardia Heart was nearly four years (1,374 days) before receiving a successful donor heart transplant Sept. 11, 2011.

SynCardia Systems also manufactures the Freedom® portable driver, which powers the SynCardia Heart while allowing clinically stable patients to leave the hospital to live at home and in their communities. The wearable Freedom driver has been used by more than 200 patients, accounting for over 120 years of support


Media Contact:
Don Isaacs
Vice President of Communications
SynCardia Systems, Inc.
Cell: (520) 955-0660


*The SynCardia temporary Total Artificial Heart was formerly known as the
SynCardia temporary CardioWest™ Total Artificial Heart.

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