LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Surgeons in Louisville are breaking ground again in the implanting of artificial hearts.

A cardiothoracic team at U of L Health - Jewish Hospital is now the first to implant the Aeson bioprosthetic total artificial heart into a woman.

A 57-year-old Kentucky woman was diagnosed with end-stage heart failure when the device was implanted by surgeons Mark Slaughter, M.D., and Siddharth Pahwa, M.D. on Sept. 14. U of L Health said the woman is recovering well from the eight-hour surgery in the cardiovascular intensive care unit (CVICU).

The investigational Aeson device is designed to be used as a bridge to a heart transplant. It is part of an early feasibility study by a French medical company, CARMAT. The company has four partners approved for the clinical trial, including U of L Health-Trager Transplant Center at Jewish Hospital.

The hope is to extend life for women who haven't been entered into as many trials. Slaughter said the Aeson device is smaller.

"Size limitations can make it harder to implant artificial hearts in women, but the Aeson artificial heart is compact enough to fit inside the smaller chest cavities more frequently found in women," he said.

More than 3,500 individuals are awaiting a heart transplant in the U.S., and 900 of them are women.

"Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women in the U.S., and it's the silent, deadly disease that afflicts women and men all over the world," University of Louisville President Neeli Bendapudi said. "My heart is full today. I am wearing my heart on my sleeve, or at least my jacket, because this is a momentous occasion."

The implant surgery on the Kentucky woman was the third in the U.S. of the Aeson device, and it was the second time in a month that Jewish Hospital has implanted the investigational device into a patient. The same surgeons implanted the second Aeson heart into an Indiana man on Aug. 20, 2021. The first Aeson heart in the U.S. was implanted by surgeons at Duke University Medical Center in July. The device has already been approved for medical use in Europe, where 20 have been implanted in patients.

The Aeson device is designed for patients experiencing biventricular heart disease, meaning both the left and right sides of the heart are not adequately pumping blood. It contains pressure sensors that estimate the patient's blood pressure and automatically adjust cardiac output. The Aeson is fully-implanted in the chest and uses an external power supply.

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A cardiothoracic team at U of L Health - Jewish Hospital are now the first to implanted the Aeson bioprosthetic total artificial heart into a woman. 

The 57-year-old Kentucky woman was diagnosed with end-stage heart failure. Image of the CARMAT artificial  heart courtesy U of L Health. Sept. 21, 2021

U of L participated in preclinical research for the CARMAT artificial heart more than five years ago. The school' Cardiovascular Innovation Institute (CII) tested Aeson's ability to detect changes in pressure. The lab has been involved in researching artificial heart components and mechanical assist devices many years. U of L Health said it has tested some portion of nearly every mechanical assist device that is commercially available.

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Robert Tools pictured here with the AbioCor artificial heart made by Abiomed.  He was the first person in the U.S. to have a self-contained artificial heart implanted on July 2, 2001.  He lived five months with the device.  Image courtesy U of L Health. 

Artificial heart research in Louisville goes back nearly four decades. The Jarvik-7 artificial heart was transplanted into William J. Schroeder at Humana Hospital Audubon by Dr. William DeVries in November 1984. The Jasper, Indiana, native lived 620 days with the Jarvik-7, according to the New York Times. The 54-year-old retired federal worker died in August 1986 after a series of strokes, but he was the first heart-implant patient to live outside a hospital.

U of L and Jewish Hospital made artificial heart history on July 2, 2001, when U of L cardiothoracic surgeon Laman Gray led the surgical team that implanted the first self-contained artificial heart in the United States. The AbioCor plastic and titanium artificial heart was implanted into Robert Tools, who lived five months on the device.

Jewish Hospital was also the site of the second Abiocor artificial heart transplant on Sept 13, 2001. Tom Christerson became the longest-living recipient of a self-contained artificial heart living nearly 17 months with the AbioCor.

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Tom Christerson, pictured here with U of L cardiothoracic surgeons Laman Gray and Robert Dowling. He was the second patient in the  U.S. to have the AbioCor artificial implanted.  He was the longest-living person with a self-contained artificial heart. He lived 17 months with the device. Image courtesy U of L Health. 

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