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Heart-assisting device

Mark Heiner of Culver City reads books, paints artistically, takes and takes walks – activities that would be considered routine except for the fact that a four-pound disk implanted in his abdominal cavity is keeping his blood flowing.

The procedure to implant the Thoratec HeartMate XVE was performed in early March by a team led by cardiothoracic surgeon Sinan A Simsir, MD, surgical director of the Heart Transplant and Ventricular Assist Device Program at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Heiner’s implantation of the XVE may be the first in Los Angeles County. The device was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2002 for use in “destination therapy,” permanent support for end-stage heart failure patients who are not eligible for heart transplantation.

Heiner, 57, a former prop man in the entertainment industry, has a history of cardiomyopathy, in which the heart becomes enlarged and less efficient. He also was diagnosed in 1999 with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (cancer of the lymph nodes). When he had a lymphoma relapse in 2005, a course of chemotherapy further damaged his heart.The combination of ailments left Heiner in a medical Catch-22. His heart was so weak he needed a transplant, but guidelines of the International Society of Heart & Lung Transplantation suggest a patient be tumor-free for five years before being subjected to the immunosuppression that reduces the risk of organ rejection.

The internal device is connected to an external “fanny pack” of rechargeable batteries by thin electrical cords that exit the body through an opening in the skin. Earlier LVADs required patients to always be tethered to a large console, but the HeartMate XVE gives patients like Heiner the ability to move freely and live at home with few restrictions. A home-health nurse visits every other week and Heiner currently sees his physicians at Cedars-Sinai every three weeks.