Category Archives: Heart


Living without a heart for one year

Stan Larkin was diagnosed with familial cardiomyopathy when he was just 16 years old. This disease causes serious irregular heartbeats and inhibits proper blood flow.

Stan was immediately placed on the heart transplant list, but would have to wait a long time for a matching donor. In the meantime, doctors installed an internal defibrillator to help his heart beat whenever it would have problems.

Unfortunately, Stan’s heart continued to deteriorate. Near his 24th birthday, doctors knew they needed to do something drastic. They installed a SynCardia Total Artificial Heart.

Stan’s heart was literally on his sleeve. He would carry with him a 13.5 pound artificial heart that allowed him to maintain a normal lifestyle and continue being a father to his three children while he waited for an organ transplant.

“I just want to put the heart to use.” – Stan Larkin

The device performed all the functions of a healthy heart and kept Stan alive for an incredible (and record-setting) 555 days. He finally received his new “real” heart in May of 2016 and is making a swift recovery. He looks forward to putting his new heart to use on the basketball court.

Click here to read more.

Child Heart Donor

Parents: Meet the child that was saved by your son’s heart

( These days, Davis Boswell of Auburn is a rosy-cheeked nine-month old with a head full of baby-fine hair.

But not that long ago, he was a boy living on borrowed time – tethered to lifesaving technology through a device called a Berlin heart that helped pump blood. Davis was the youngest patient in the United States to use a Berlin heart when doctors implanted it, said his mother, Amanda Boswell. He was less than three weeks old.

The device is used to stabilize children as they await a transplant, and Davis used it for more than four months as he and his family waited at Children’s of Alabama in Birmingham. An infection caused him to go into heart failure shortly after his birth.

“We never prayed for a heart,” Amanda Boswell said. “Because we knew that praying for a heart was praying for something tragic to happen to a baby.”

As the Boswells’ vigil entered its fourth month, something tragic did happen to a baby living hundreds of miles away in Monroe, La. John Clarke Perry, a six-month-old, began to run a mysterious fever, and doctors discovered bleeding on the brain.

Nurses at the hospital papered his room with Bible verses, and his parents prayed for a miracle.

During surgery to stop the bleeding, doctors discovered major malformations in the blood vessels around the brain that couldn’t be repaired. John Clarke’s parents, Jonathan and Holley, had one more decision to make before they removed their son from life support – whether or not to donate his organs.

Holley Perry said yes, and she pushed the transplant team to find a place for his heart. At first, team members weren’t sure they could find a baby close enough to receive the heart, but then they found Davis Boswell and rushed the organ to Birmingham.

Davis Boswell survived the surgery in late November and thrived, leaving the hospital in January – almost six months after he arrived.

On Tuesday night for the first time, the Boswell and Perry families met in Alabama, the night before a ceremony at East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika honoring organ donation.

“It’s not a situation you ever plan to be in,” Jonathan Perry said. “It’s hard to know what to say.”

Although Holley Perry and Amanda Boswell texted and sent messages over Facebook, meeting in person still made them nervous.

“I’ll admit, there were butterflies,” Amanda Boswell said. “It’s a meeting no parent can prepare for.”

The families talked about Davis Boswell, and how he was doing. They also have older children about the same age. John Clarke’s twin, Ella, is almost the same age as Davis.

“On both ends, there’s no rulebook, there’s nobody who can give you advice,” Amanda Boswell said.

Holley Perry agreed. She sought out the Boswell family after she learned that Davis might have received John Clarke’s heart.

“You don’t want anything to come off the wrong way,” Holley Perry said.

The Boswells are extremely grateful to the Perry family, but struggle with survivor’s guilt.

“We certainly want them to feel comfortable,” Amanda Boswell said. “It’s a lot easier for us because Davis is still here.”

The Perrys have also struggled to figure out the boundaries that define this new relationship. They want to know how Davis is doing and how his heart is holding up – but they don’t want to intrude.

“We don’t want them thinking we think that’s our son,” Jonathan Perry said.

Amanda Boswell said she can understand better than most the pain of losing a child, because Davis came so close to death when he was at the hospital. And the Perrys believe their son touched many souls in his short life – not just the Boswells.

“God didn’t take our son so Davis could live,” Jonathan Perry said. “He has brought many people closer to the Lord.”

One of Jonathan Perry’s fondest memories of John Clarke is watching football with his infant son before he got sick. If the family needed John Clarke to smile for a photograph, they would turn on a game, he said.

“I could watch LSU and the Saints, and he would just sit there on my knee,” Jonathan Perry said. “He could watch football forever.”

The Boswells cheer for Auburn, but at the ceremony, the Perrys gave Davis a shirt that said, “My heart bleeds purple and gold.”

Compared to his twin sister, John Clarke was the easy one, a happy baby who rarely fussed, Holley Perry said.

Both families have leaned heavily on faith and prayer since their babies fell ill, and say the experience has brought them closer to God.

“The world is not a fair place and bad things are going to happen to good people,” Jonathan Perry said. “There are a lot of people who are going to think this is a horrible thing, and it was. But there’s already good coming from it. If one person prayed for our son who never prayed before, then John Clarke brought someone closer to the Lord.”

By Amy Yurkanin


Aspirin Did Not Reduce Heart Disease Deaths

aspirin_2945793kDaily low dose aspirin did not reduce heart disease deaths but did reduce nonfatal heart attacks

Instead of the old adage about an apple a day, many doctors advise their patients to take an aspirin a day to prevent heart attacks. Which may be good advice. But new research suggests that aspirin may not keep patients from dying of a heart attack.

Aspirin is thought to decrease the risk of death from a heart attack because it keeps blood clots from forming. This new study from Japan found no difference in the death rate between patients who took a daily dose of aspirin and those who did not. 

Patients in the aspirin group had a 2.77 percent death rate. Those in the non-aspirin group had a 2.96 percent death rate – not a significant increase.

A research team led by Yasuo Ikeda, MD, of Waseda University in Tokyo, studied 14,464 patients from 1,007 clinics in Japan. The patients had high blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol and triglyceride levels all risk factors for heart disease. The study included men and women aged 60 to 85.

Dr. Ikeda and team split the patients into two groups. One group received a daily dose of 100 milligrams of aspirin. The other group did not receive aspirin. The patients continued to take their regular medications.

The study authors followed the patients for five years. At the end of the five-year period, a review committee stopped the study because there was no evidence that aspirin was effective in reducing the death rate from heart attack or stroke.

The researchers found that an equal number of patients 56 died in each of the two groups.

Dr. Ikeda and team found that the aspirin group did, however, see a decreased risk of a nonfatal heart attack. Aspirin also reduced the risk of transient ischemic attacks, or TIAs. TIAs occur when the blood supply to the brain is temporarily reduced.

In the aspirin group, 114 patients had a stroke that did not cause death. In the non-aspirin group, that figure was 108. In the aspirin group, 20 patients had nonfatal heart attacks compared to 38 patients in the non-aspirin group.

Patients on aspirin were more likely to have bleeding that required hospitalization or blood transfusions. Patients who took a daily dose of aspirin were more likely to report stomach problems like stomach pain, heart burn or nausea.

The study was published Nov. 17 in JAMA and presented at the American Heart Associations Scientific Sessions 2014 in Chicago.

J. Michael Gaziano, MD, of Brigham and Womens Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston and an associate editor for JAMA, and Philip Greenland, MD, of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago and a senior editor for JAMA, commented on the study in the Nov. 17 issue of JAMA.

Drs. Gaziano and Greenland said that, although the study did not provide evidence that aspirin reduced the death rate from heart disease, there are still times it should be used.

Patients who have a high short-term risk of a heart attack or stroke should receive aspirin, they said. Those who undergo certain medical procedures with a risk of heart attack or stroke should also receive aspirin.

Low-risk patients, however, should not take aspirin because of the risk of bleeding, the editorial authors wrote.

Drs. Gaziano and Greenland said that this study “adds to the body of evidence that helps refine the answer to the question of when aspirin should be used to prevent vascular events. Decision making involves an assessment of individual risk-to-benefit that should be discussed between clinician and patient.

Patients should not take daily aspirin (brand names Bayer, Ecotrin and Fasprin) unless advised by their doctors to do so.

The Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare and the Waksman Foundation of Japan funded the study. Bayer Yakuhin provided the aspirin used in the study free of charge. Dr. Ikeda and several other study authors received funds from medication manufacturers such as Bayer, which manufactures aspirin.




Coffee May Reduce Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

coffeeType 2 diabetes risk decreased in patients who drank caffeinated coffee and those who drank decaf

Coffee drinkers may have one more reason to brew another pot. Coffee might prevent type 2 diabetes, according to a research roundup published for World Diabetes Day.


The report found that patients who drank coffee had a decreased risk for type 2 diabetes.

Caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee appeared to have similar effects, the researchers found.

The new report from the Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee (ISIC) included data from several past studies. According to the report, people who drank 3 to 4 cups of coffee a day were 25 percent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than people who drank 2 cups or fewer.

Past research found that people who drank coffee were less likely to develop type 2 diabetes. Those who drank up to 7 cups of coffee a day were 50 percent less likely to develop diabetes than those who drank 2 cups or fewer, the new study found.

For each additional cup of coffee patients drank, they saw a 7 to 8 percent decrease in their risk of type 2 diabetes. Whether the coffee that patients drank had caffeine didn’t appear to affect the results.

The ISIC report also noted that diabetes risk increased by 17 percent in people who decreased their coffee intake by 1 cup per day. People who increased their coffee intake by 1 cup per day, however, had an 11 percent lower risk of diabetes within the next four years.

Even the time of day patients drank coffee may have an effect on diabetes risk. In one study included in the report, French women who drank coffee at lunch were less likely to develop diabetes than those who drank coffee at other times.

Past research on whether caffeine played a part in coffee’s potential effect on diabetes risk has produced conflicting results, however. The report authors called for further study on this topic.

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease in which the body cannot properly process the hormone insulin. Insulin regulates blood sugar. Diabetes can cause heart disease, blindness and kidney failure. Coffee may reduce blood sugar levels, according to the ISIC report, but more research is needed to confirm this effect. Coffee may also affect hormones that regulate insulin, the report authors noted.

Coffee may also improve liver function, which is necessary to keep blood sugar stable. The researchers were not sure exactly what components of coffee might decrease the risk of diabetes.

Too much caffeine can cause patients to have trouble sleeping or make them feel anxious or nervous. Patients should talk to their doctors before making large changes in their caffeine intake.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 29.1 million people in the US have been diagnosed with diabetes. An additional 8.1 million have diabetes but have not been formally diagnosed, the CDC estimates. Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the US.

In time to mark World Diabetes Day on Nov. 14, ISIC released this annual report on research related to coffee and type 2 diabetes Nov. 13.

ISIC is a nonprofit group. Members include seven of the major European coffee companies: illycaff, Mondelz International, Lavazza, Nestl, Paulig, DE Master Blenders 1753 and Tchibo. ISIC supports independent research on coffee and shares research results.



Glasses of wine

A little alcohol may not be good for your heart after all

Glasses of wineA new study challenges the widely held belief that light drinking of alcohol may be good for your heart.

Researchers analyzed more than 50 studies that examined drinking habits and heart health in more than 260,000 people.

They found that those with a form of a gene tied to lower levels of drinking generally had healthier hearts. The gene affects how a person’s body breaks down alcohol, resulting in unpleasant symptoms such as nausea and facial flushing. Having this variant has been shown to lead to lower drinking over the long term, the researchers explained.

On average, people with the gene had lower blood pressure, lower body-mass index (an estimate of body fat based on height and weight) and a 10 percent lower risk of heart disease.

The results suggest that cutting alcohol intake — even for light-to-moderate drinkers — benefits heart health, according to the authors of the study in the July 11 issue of the BMJ.

“While the damaging effects of heavy alcohol consumption on the heart are well-established, for the last few decades we’ve often heard reports of the potential health benefits of light-to-moderate drinking,” study senior author Juan Casas, a professor of epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said in a university news release. “However, we now have evidence that some of these studies suffer from limitations that may affect the validity of their findings.

“In our study, we saw a link between a reduced consumption of alcohol and improved cardiovascular health, regardless of whether the individual was a light, moderate or heavy drinker,” Casas said. The study could only show an association between the two, however, it couldn’t prove cause-and-effect.

Further large-scale gene studies are needed to confirm these findings, the researchers said.

“Studies into alcohol consumption are fraught with difficulty, in part because they rely on people giving accurate accounts of their drinking habits,” Dr. Shannon Amoils, senior research advisor at the British Heart Foundation, said in the news release “Here the researchers used a clever study design to get round this problem by including people who had a gene that predisposes them to drink less.”

“The results reinforce the view that small to moderate amounts of alcohol may not be healthy for the heart, although the study would need to be repeated in a larger group of people for definitive results,” Amoils said.

However, Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a preventive cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, issued a word of caution about the latest findings.

“In light of the many trials revealing the [antioxidant] polyphenols found in red wine as being beneficial for cardiovascular disease, one must look at this trial with a critical eye,” Steinbaum said. “It is clear that the patients with this genetic variant have a reduction in alcohol intake, but it is unclear if this in itself is the factor improving [their] cardiovascular outcomes.”

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has more about alcohol and your health.




Trinity Medical Center first to implant smallest medical device

trinity  Birmingham, AL (March 13, 2014)Trinity Medical Center   became the first hospital in Alabama to implant in a patient the smallest insertable cardiac monitoring device available. Timothy Lee, MD, cardiologist, implanted the device in a 64-year-old, male patient on Wednesday. 

“Trinity’s first priority is providing patients with high quality, safe and effective care through practices that improve outcomes and the patient experience,” said Keith Granger, CEO of Trinity Medical Center.  “Trinity has a long history of providing ‘firsts’ in cardiac care to patients and will continue to make advancements in technology available to physicians and patients.”

The insertable cardiac monitor (ICM) is approximately one-third the size of an AAA battery, making it more than 80 percent smaller than other ICMs. While significantly smaller, the device is part of a powerful system that allows physicians to continuously and wirelessly monitor a patient’s heart for up to three years, with 20 percent more data memory than its larger predecessor.  

In addition to its continuous and wireless monitoring capabilities, the system provides remote monitoring.  Through the monitoring network, physicians can request notifications to alert them if their patients have had cardiac events. The monitoring device is indicated for patients who experience symptoms such as dizziness, palpitation, syncope (fainting) and chest pain that may suggest a cardiac arrhythmia, and for patients at increased risk for cardiac arrhythmias.

This ICM monitor can help patients find answers to problems that may be heart-related without interrupting their lifestyle. The simplified procedure and insertion tools make the device faster and easier for physicians to implant, which may expand access to more patients needing long-term monitoring.

Placed just beneath the skin through a small incision of less than 1 cm in the upper left side of the chest, the monitor is often nearly invisible to the naked eye once inserted. The device is placed using a minimally invasive insertion procedure, which simplifies the experience for both physicians and their patients.

The new ICM system also includes the new patient monitor, a simplified remote monitoring system with global cellular technology that transmits patients’ cardiac device diagnostic data to their clinicians from nearly any location in the world. 

About Trinity Medical Center
Trinity Medical Center is a tertiary care hospital serving residents of Birmingham and surrounding communities. The hospital offers programs and services in all medical and surgical areas. This includes oncology, cardiology, robotic surgery, orthopedics, neurology, women’s health, mental health, digestive diseases, geriatrics, physical medicine and rehab, sports medicine, cardiac and pulmonary rehab, and emergency care.  Trinity has been honored by The Joint Commission as one of the nation’s Top Performers on Key Quality Measures®, a distinction honoring exemplary performance in using evidence-based clinical processes that are shown to improve care for certain conditions, including heart attack, heart failure, pneumonia, surgical care, children’s asthma, stroke and venous thrombo embolism, as well as inpatient psychiatric services.



Cardiologists implant subcutaneous defibrillator in first Alabama patient

Christian_Quarles_sFourteen-year-old Monroeville, Ala., teenager Christian Quarles is the first state resident to receive the Boston Scientific S-ICD® System, the world’s first and only commercially available subcutaneous implantable defibrillator for the treatment of patients at risk for sudden cardiac arrest.

The device was successfully implanted at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital Dec. 23, 2013, by Takumi Yamada, M.D., an electrophysiologist in UAB’s School of Medicine.

Sudden cardiac arrest is an abrupt loss of heart function often resulting in death. Most episodes are caused by the rapid and/or chaotic activity of the heart known as ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation. Christian was not known to be at increased risk of sudden cardiac arrest but experienced it in December. He was taken to the emergency room at a Florida hospital and underwent resuscitation. Physicians in the emergency department thought the teenager had died, but he was revived. 

Quarles was transferred to UAB Hospital, where pediatric electrophysiology cardiologist Yung Lau, M.D., determined that he needed an implantable defibrillator to provide immediate treatment.

UAB is the first hospital in Alabama to implant the Boston Scientific S-ICDSystem, which is designed to provide the same protection from sudden cardiac arrest as traditional implantable defibrillators. However, the entirety of the S-ICD System sits just below the skin without the need for thin, insulated wires — known as leads — to be placed through blood vessels into the heart itself. This leaves the heart and blood vessels untouched, providing an exciting new solution for physicians and patients.

“The S-ICD is unique because cardiologists don’t have to pass wires into the heart to deliver treatment,” said Yung Lau, M.D., UAB pediatric electrophysiologist. “Those leads are often the weak link in defibrillator therapy. They have been known to fracture, dislodge from the heart, and experience other problems that can result in a loss of therapy or to unnecessary shocks. Lead failure can be a particularly important problem in our pediatric population.”

Approximately 6,000 of these S-ICD systems have been implanted in the United States, with 5 percent of those going to pediatric patients.

“This S-ICD System’s lead runs from the device, just under the skin, to an area near the breast bone,” Yamada said. “It delivers a life-saving jolt, similar to that of an external defibrillator, if the heart goes into a dangerous rhythm.”  

Christian has reported no problems with the implant and returned to school in January. His parents, Kenya and Christopher Quarles, are proud to point out that he made the A-B honor roll.  

Most importantly, Christian is alive.

“What happened to Christian in December — that was the scariest moment of my life,” said Kenya Quarles, a certified nursing assistant. “I see it in the field I work in, but to go through it personally at home was rough. I’m just so thankful for the physicians and staff at UAB. They explained everything to us so well and provided Christian the best care you could imagine. His heart is pumping right, and Christian is alive. My baby is a miracle.”



UAB Surgeon First to Use New Heart Catheter on a U.S. Patient

mcelderry_catheter_SUAB Medicine cardiovascular physician Tom McElderry, M.D., has become the first surgeon in the United States to use the new IntellaTip MiFi™ XP catheter in a patient.

The device was given FDA approval in the United States in August for the treatment of atrial flutter, an arrhythmia that affects nearly one million people in the United States.

IntellaTip MiFi™ XP is engineered to deliver highly localized electrical information in real time. An innovative set of electrodes around the catheter’s tip provide electrograms of the heart – photos of the heart’s electric anatomy – with a higher resolution than any other ablation catheter. These electrograms help clinicians assess lesion maturation and differentiate viable from non-viable tissue.

McElderry, associate professor of medicine and section chief of Electrophysiology in UAB’s Division of Cardiovascular Disease, worked with Boston Scientific for five years on the sensor technology.

“The catheter helps physicians pinpoint the areas for therapy delivery, which helps make a more precise diagnosis and treatment of rhythm atrial flutter,” McElderry said. “In my opinion, we’re going to be able to use this catheter or similar technology on other catheter platforms in the future to address more complex arrhythmias.”

The catheter, which is removed at the conclusion of the procedure, has a steerable sheath that enables it to gain access to the heart, facilitating catheter use in a variety of procedures, including treatment of atrial flutter, atrial fibrillation and ventricular tachycardia. Enhanced features, which include a soft distal tip, advanced shaft construction and an intuitive ergonomic handle, help clinicians deliver catheters consistently and safely during electrophysiology procedures.

In addition to his consulting work with Boston Scientific, McElderry is a consultant for competitors BioSense Webster Inc. and St. Jude Medical Inc.