Liotta-Cooley Artificial Heart
On April 4, 1969, the first total artificial heart (not just a ventricular assist device) was implanted in Haskell Karp, at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital, in Houston, Texas. The heart, designed by Domingo Liotta, and implanted by Denton Cooley, was what’s known as a “bridge-to-transplantation" device, intended only to keep the patient alive long enough to have a suitable donor heart become available.
Mr. Karp survived 63 hours with the artificial heart, prior to a donor heart being located. Unfortunately, the transplant of the biological heart proved to be a poor alternative to a fairly-rudimentary artificial heart. Due to immuno-suppressive drugs, a massive acute pulmonary infection took hold, and he succumbed to complications 32 hours after the biological heart was transplanted. It was not until 1982 that the first longer-term (80-150 days) artificial hearts were successfully utilized.
The original prototype of the Liotta-Cooley heart now resides at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.
Image from NMAH Exhibits.