Over the Years

Penn State Hershey has a rich history of groundbreaking artificial heart developments

Penn State Hershey has a rich history of groundbreaking artificial heart developments. Highlights include:


  • 1976 - William S. Pierce, M.D., attaches the first Penn State air-driven heart pump (later known as the Pierce-Donachy pump) to a post-op patient who was having trouble coming off the heart-lung machine. The patient survives and returns home.
  • 1990 - The Pierce-Donachy pump is named an International Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
  • 1985 - The Penn State Heart is first implanted in a patient.
  • 1992 - Winston the calf ushers in the era of the wireless, electric total artificial heart, living 118 days on the Penn State device.
  • 1999 - A patient on the Pierce-Donachy pump goes home with a newly approved portable power unit. The patient is able to wait at home for a transplant.
  • 2001 - A phase I research study begins on LionHeart™, a Penn State-developed left ventricular heart assist system for heart-failure patients who are not candidates for transplantation. It was developed in conjunction with Arrow International, Inc., of Reading, Pa. Penn State begins working with Abiomed™ Corp on the AbioCor II electrical artificial heart.
  • 2003 - Gayle Snider of York, Pa., becomes the first U.S. patient with an Arrow LionHeart device to go home from the hospital.
  • 2003 - The first results of the Arrow LionHeart European research study led by Walter Pae, Jr., M.D. are unveiled at the American Heart Association’s 76th Scientific Sessions. The study suggests that fully-implantable mechanical heart support is possible and reliable. Only three device failures were recorded in 17.3 years of support time.
  • 2008 - Penn State Hershey Heart and Vascular Institute’s ventricular assist device program becomes one of only a handful of programs nationwide to earn the Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval™ for implanting VADs as destination therapy for patients with advanced heart failure.
  • 2008 - Tim Ritchie, a 34-year-old Jonestown, Pa., man who received a heart pump six months earlier, leaves the Penn State Hershey Medical Center in June with a recuperated heart and no pump. It is rare that a failing heart recovers on a pump; typically patients remain on the pump permanently or until a donor heart is found.


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