Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago is First Pediatric Hospital in Country to Implant Smaller Version of Total Artificial Heart

January 17, 2017

Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago is the first pediatric hospital in the country to implant the new smaller version of a total artificial heart. Eleven-year-old Jaheim Whigham of Illinois is the world’s youngest person – and one of 40 worldwide -- to receive the 50cc SynCardia temporary Total Artificial Heart (TAH-t). This device is the smaller version of the 70cc TAH-t which received FDA approval in 2004. SynCardia designed the smaller device to fit women, men of smaller stature and adolescents like Whigham. He is the world’s smallest patient to receive the 50cc TAH-t.   

Whigham, who was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, received his first heart transplant in 2012 when he was 7 years old.  On October 19, 2016 during a routine check-up at Lurie Children’s, tests revealed he was in heart failure from rejection. He was immediately admitted to the hospital where he was treated intensively for rejection.  Several weeks later, however, other organ systems began to fail. To save his life, Lurie Children’s cardiac surgeons removed his transplanted heart and implanted the 50cc SynCardia Total Artificial Heart.

“We had no other options but to implant Jaheim with the artificial heart,” said Carl Backer, MD, Division Head, Cardiovascular Surgery at Lurie Children’s and Professor of Surgery at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “Since the artificial heart implant on December 1, 2016, Jaheim’s other organs have recovered nicely.  He keeps getting stronger and has now been listed for a heart transplant.” 

The SynCardia Total Artificial Heart replaces both failing heart ventricles and the four heart valves. The Total Artificial Heart restores blood flow to the body and the vital organs and eliminates complications associated with the patient's failing heart. Previous devices have been external to the body and make it cumbersome for the patient to move around. The SynCardia Total Artificial Heart is implanted inside the chest cavity with only two small tubes connecting to an external power supply known as a driver. When patients become clinically stable, they can be switched from the external hospital driver to the Freedom portable driver which fits in a backpack and gives the patient significant mobility. Patients who meet discharge criteria can then leave the hospital to wait for matching donor hearts at home.

“The success of Jaheim’s implant is due to the careful training and collaboration of the Cardiac Intensivists, Cardiologists, nurses and therapists in the Regenstein Cardiac Care Unit who are overseeing his care,” said Backer. Lurie Children’s is now a SynCardia Certified Center and the only center in Illinois to have implanted the 50cc Total Artificial Heart.    

The Heart Center at Lurie Children’s is one of the top children’s heart center’s in the country according to USNews & World Report. On average, our heart surgeons perform 450 heart surgeries each year, with one of the best survival rates for congenital heart surgery among the nation’s 40 largest and most advanced children’s hospitals — even for heart transplants. For a third successive time, the Heart Center recently received a 3-star rating from the Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS), the highest rating level awarded. This 3-star rating is given to only 10% of programs in the country participating in the STS congenital cardiac surgery database ( 

About SynCardia Systems, LLC
SynCardia Systems, LLC in Tucson, Ariz., is the privately-held manufacturer of the world's first and only FDA, Health Canada and CE approved Total Artificial Heart. For people suffering from end-stage heart failure affecting both sides of the heart (biventricular failure), the SynCardia temporary Total Artificial Heart is used as a bridge to transplant, helping them survive until a matching donor heart becomes available. SynCardia also manufactures the Freedom® portable driver, which powers the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart and allows clinically stable patients to be discharged from the hospital to enjoy life at home while they wait for a heart transplant.