What to Expect

If your doctor has approached you or a loved one about the SynCardia temporary Total Artificial Heart (TAH) as a treatment option, the idea of having your heart removed may seem a little scary at first, but it’s not that different from receiving a heart transplant.

Similar to receiving a donor heart, the SynCardia TAH replaces both lower chambers of your heart (the left and right ventricles) plus the four heart valves, eliminating the symptoms and source of your heart failure. In addition, the SynCardia TAH offers some advantages a donor heart doesn’t: the TAH is readily available when needed (no wait list), is not restricted by blood type or antibody level (no matching required) and is biocompatible with the body (no anti-rejection medications needed).

The Total Artificial Heart is definitely a lifesaver. If you need it, do it, no hesitation. With hospice, you know the end is coming; with the Total Artificial Heart, you know the future is coming.

Johnny, 55, SynCardia TAH recipient

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In order to ensure the best outcomes with the SynCardia TAH, it’s important that patients undergo implant surgery promptly so that prolonged low blood flow doesn’t cause permanent damage to vital organs. The day your failing heart is replaced by the TAH is the day your recovery from heart failure can begin.

Restored Blood Flow

When I woke up from surgery, I felt so good. Ten minutes later, I got up and walked around. My hearing and eyesight were so much better. I could breathe again.

Bob, 50, SynCardia TAH recipient

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Many doctors and families have described watching patients and loved ones turn from a sickly grey to a healthier pink as the SynCardia TAH restores blood flow to their bodies and vital organs. Typically, the 70cc TAH provides blood flow around 7 liters per minute (up to 9.5 liters per minute) and the 50cc TAH provides blood flow around 5 liters per minute (up to 7.5 liters per minute). In comparison, a typical human heart pumps an average of 5 liters of blood per minute.

The first thing my family said after the surgery was they could not believe how pink my skin was and how deep the color of my lips was because I was getting oxygen for the first time in months. I could breathe when I walked and I didn’t feel like I was going to suffocate. It was like an elephant had been sitting on my chest and then suddenly that elephant got off.

Shawn, 38, SynCardia TAH recipient

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After surgery, you will notice the sound of the Companion 2 (C2) Hospital Driver, an external machine that pumps the TAH with precisely calibrated pulses of air. You'll be connected to the C2 Driver by two tubes that exit your abdomen called cannulae. These cannulae connect to drivelines, which together, carry pulses of air from the driver to TAH in your chest to push blood in and out of the ventricles.

For the initial stages of patient recovery, the C2 Driver is docked in the Hospital Cart, which features sturdy support handles and locking casters to provide robust, reliable support for you to lean on once you’re ready to get out of bed and start walking.

Exercise and Nutrition

Your physical and emotional wellbeing have a significant impact on your recovery. It’s important that you maintain a positive attitude and have a strong support system to keep you motivated.

Key components of your recovery will include a healthy diet and exercise. Your medical team will design a nutrition and exercise plan tailored to your individual needs. Following this plan is critical for building up your strength and improving your health for your future heart transplant.

I feel like I’m in training right now. I look at my heart transplant as an athletic event that I’m training for.

Randy, 39, SynCardia TAH recipient

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It’s also important to start moving as soon as possible under the supervision of your medical team. Usually patients begin by sitting in a chair, standing and then walking around the hospital room. Eventually, you’ll walk laps around the hospital floor.

Most patients progress to regular workouts as part of their cardiac rehabilitation supervised by hospital staff. Maintaining a healthy diet during this time provides the body with the energy and nutrients it needs to recover.

I walked 607 miles with the Total Artificial Heart, so I was really fit going into that surgery. That's very different from a lot of people who go into the transplant really sick. After the surgery, they not only have to recover from the transplant, but also from being sick for so long leading up to it.

Chris, 51, SynCardia TAH recipient

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Discharge and Life At Home

Once stable, patients can be switched from the C2 Driver to the Freedom® Portable Driver, a smaller, lighter external pump for the TAH. The Freedom Driver can be carried in the Backpack or Shoulder Bag, allowing patients who meet discharge criteria to leave the hospital and enjoy life at home while they wait for a matching donor heart. Life at home greatly improves the patient’s physical, mental and emotional health while eliminating most in-hospital costs for this portion of patient care.

[After being switched to the Freedom Driver,] I came home and I continued my life. I played golf, did yard work and lifted weights. I walked 2 to 3 miles per day. The Freedom Driver wasn’t an inconvenience to me because I knew what it meant. Without this machine, I wouldn’t be here. I was proud of it. It was part of my life.

Johnny, 55, SynCardia TAH recipient

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Some examples of activities SynCardia TAH patients have been able to enjoy with the Freedom Driver include:

  • Going to the mall, the beach, the zoo and county fairs with their children
  • Riding a bicycle
  • Playing pick-up basketball
  • Golfing
  • Hiking
  • Lifting weights
  • Tiling floors, painting walls and installing crown molding
  • Trapshooting, fishing and hunting
  • Taking interstate road trips
  • Attending graduations and weddings
  • Four-wheeling

You can’t give up. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. You just have to go with it. What is most important is to not let anything stop you --- do what you enjoy.

Marcela, 20, SynCardia TAH recipient

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Patients may find that when they go out in public, the Backpack or the sound of the Freedom Driver can attract attention. Many patients take it as an opportunity to educate others about the TAH, as well as organ donation.

Training and Resources

Prior to being discharged home, hospital staff will provide extensive training to you and your caregiver(s) on how to operate and take care of the Freedom Driver, including:

  • Cleaning the driveline exit sites and changing the bandages to prevent infection
  • Changing and charging batteries
  • Recognizing and responding to alarms
  • Switching to the backup Freedom Driver if necessary

Don’t go home and stay cooped up. You need to get out and take advantage of the time you have to get in shape to prepare for the transplant surgery and live life. Some people are afraid. The only thing they want to do is be home or go to the clinic for visits, but for me, that’s not living life.

Chris, 51, SynCardia TAH recipient

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Have other questions we haven’t answered here? Visit our FAQs page.

Interested in talking to someone who’s already been through this experience? Ask your hospital if you can talk to a current or former SynCardia TAH patient.