Levine Children's Hospital Completes First Successful Berlin Heart Procedure

Darrian Bailey, at 15 months old, became the first patient at Carolinas HealthCare System’s Levine Children’s Hospital to be kept alive by a total artificial heart until he received a new heart.

Thomas S. Maxey, MD
Pediatric Cardiac Surgeon at Carolinas HealthCare System’s Sanger Heart and Vascular Institute and Levine Children’s Hospital

The artificial heart, specifically designed for pediatric patients, is used externally since many infants and children do not have a chest cavity large enough to accommodate an artificial heart. Known as the Berlin Heart, the device will keep a critically ill patient alive until a donor heart becomes available.

Thomas S. Maxey, MD, a pediatric cardiac surgeon at Carolinas HealthCare System’s Sanger Heart and Vascular Institute and Levine Children’s Hospital, performed the operation to give Darrian the artificial heart. The surgery was a success and Darrian was kept on the artificial heart for several weeks and in mid-May, Darrian received his new heart. Dr. Maxey also performed Darrian’s transplant when the donor heart became available.

Gonzalo Alberto Wallis, MD
Pediatric Heart Transplant Physician

Working alongside Dr. Maxey for this case was Gonzalo Alberto Wallis, MD, the System’s first pediatric heart transplant physician since Richard Smith, MD, assumed this role with inception of the pediatric cardiac transplant program back in 1989.

“He was showing signs of severe deterioration of the systolic function of both ventricles with frequent sustained and malignant arrhythmias,” said Dr. Wallis, who has specific expertise in the Berlin Heart. “In my previous roles I have seen many patients have a good experience with this type of artificial heart; including a very low mortality rate and a very high rate of success as a bridge to transplant.”

“While there were many risks associated with this procedure, we felt our team had the ability to be successful with implant and management of the device as Darrian waited on the transplant list,” Dr. Maxey said.

Learn more about the System’s Pediatric Cardiology program