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Next-gen mechanical heart debuts in Canada

Almost exactly two years after the first U.S. implantation, a DuraHeart Left Ventricular Assist Device has been implanted in a patient in Canada.

In 2007, Marva Lorde of Mississauga, Ontario, suffered a heart attack that resulted in 10 days in the intensive care unit, angioplasty, and pacemaker implantation, only to be followed by another cardiac arrest in 2008.

The DuraHeart pump. Terumo Heart

Now 61, she has become the first person in Canada (and among only a handful in the world) to be implanted with a longer-lasting left ventricular assist device (LVAD).

The device, called DuraHeart by Terumo Heart, was first implanted in clinical trials in the U.S. in 2008 and is also being used in Germany. It's designed for long-term cardiac support to reduce the risk of common mechanical heart complications that range from device failure to strokes and infection.

"I would have died in my sleep if the nurse hadn't checked my heart monitor," says Lorde, who underwent surgery on July 29 and for whom the DuraHeart is a true lifeline as she waits for a heart transplant. "Before the LVAD, I had trouble climbing the stairs to my bedroom, but now I'm back to my usual activities, including regular walks, and the stairs don't give me trouble anymore."

The device's central pump is powered by magnetic levitation technology; its moving parts rely on magnets instead of bearings, and enables blood to flow through the pump more smoothly, resulting in less wear and tear and, ultimately, a longer-lasting device.

Ideally, this next-gen LVAD will eliminate the need for second LVADs altogether, thereby reducing surgeries, recovery times, and resulting complications. So far the longest-living recipient of the DuraHeart is a 66-year-old woman in Germany, who celebrated four successful years with the device in May.