News and Events

Artificial Heart Without Opening the Sternum

Publication Date: 1/26/2023 11:00 AM
Rambam Health Care Campus (Rambam) in Haifa, Israel, is performing life-changing heart surgery. The hospital’s Heart Failure Unit recently implemented a surgical technique that does not require a cut through the sternum.
(L-R) Dr. Oren Caspi, Professor Benjamin Medalion, Dr. Zvi Adler, and Dr. Boris Livshits. Photography: Rambam HCC.(L-R) Dr. Oren Caspi, Professor Benjamin Medalion, Dr. Zvi Adler, and Dr. Boris Livshits. Photography: Rambam HCC.

Heart failure is a common disease. Affecting about two percent of the population, or one in ten people over the age of 70, it is often fatal.

Dr. Oren Caspi, director of the Heart Failure Unit and head of the Cardiovascular Research and Innovation Center at Rambam, explains, “We have excellent solutions for our heart failure patients, but sometimes patients need the support of a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) – a magnetic centrifuge that pumps blood from the left ventricle, into the aorta, and then to the rest of the body, allowing a person to overcome heart failure. A cut through the sternum (central bone in the chest wall) is made during an LVAD implantation – a long and complex surgical procedure. Our new LVAD procedure no longer requires cutting the sternum. Recovery is faster – it’s good news!”

Rambam’s Department of Cardiac Surgery includes two world-class cardiothoracic surgeons who brought this new procedure to Israel: Professor Benjamin Medalion, attending cardiothoracic surgeon, and Dr. Zvi Adler, attending physician. A highly skilled anesthesia team headed by Dr. Boris Livshits, director of Cardiovascular Anesthesiology, and a highly professional, multi-disciplinary team works together to reduce surgical complications.

Caspi points out that “Shorter operating times reduce the risk of complications. This new technique is much easier on patients, especially those who have undergone multiple catheterizations.” Although statistical data are not yet available, more information about this new procedure will be presented at Rambam’s 14th Annual Cardiac Surgery Meeting on February 22, 2023 – “Cardiac Surgery: Past, Present, and Future.”

Haj Jamal, a 56-year-old resident of Nhaf in Israel’s Northern District and father of six, who underwent the new procedure, says, “After five catheterizations, my condition deteriorated. I then had LVAD surgery (without the sternum cut), and it saved my life. I am a heavy smoker and it was difficult for me to stop, even though my condition deteriorated. Over the years, I needed further catheterizations. I could no longer work, and it became difficult for me to leave the house. Now, after the new procedure, walking is easier, I feel stronger, I can leave the house, do errands and shopping, and even manage outings with my wife. I have my life back.”

Patients fear major surgery, but this procedure is easier on them. A shortage of organ donations means that only 20–25 heart transplants are performed in Israel annually. However, the number of heart failure patients is much higher, so an alternative is needed, although they are not always suitable for everyone.