The Brigham implants first total artificial heart in New England

The first total artificial heart implant in New England was performed last February on a 66-year-old retired high school teacher and track and field coach from Holbrook, who was diagnosed last year with a rapidly deteriorating condition that would have caused total heart failure.

The artificial heart that James Carelli received at Brigham and Women’s Hospital is intended as a bridge to a human heart transplant. Doctors diagnosed Carelli with cardiac senile amyloidosis, and they determined that his only option for survival was to receive the artificial heart while he awaits the transplant. He is on the waiting list for a heart transplant, as well as a kidney transplant.

The hospital had not previously announced the procedure

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Physicians said that Carelli’s condition has improved dramatically. During a news conference Thursday morning, Carelli said he feels great, although he must remain in the hospital because of kidney problems until a human heart is found.

He had no doubts about going through with the procedure.

“It’s not a difficult choice when you want to live, and I wanted to live,’’ he told the media.

According to the Smithsonian Institution, the first total artificial heart implant, using an experimental device, was done on April 4, 1969, in Houston, on a 47-year-old patient with severe heart failure. The artificial heart was replaced three days later with a human heart.

In 1982, dentist Barney Clark received the first permanent artificial heart, the Jarvik 7. Clark lived for 112 days with the artificial heart. There have been numerous advances in artificial hearts in the past three decades, including the AbioCor Total Artificial Heart, a device with a two-chamber pump that is powered by internally rechargeable batteries and is designed to perform like a human heart, according to the institution. There have been thousands of artificial heart transplants throughout the world.