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Entries in Artificial Heart (2)

Wednesday
Jun272012

With Each Operation, Artificial Hearts Show More Promise

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Not long ago, patients diagnosed with heart failure would have faced a grim prognosis, as there would have been few options available to sustain them until a donor heart became available.  But that may be changing.

On June 21, physicians at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston announced that they had performed the first successful artificial heart transplant in New England for a patient who had advanced heart failure.

"It's a regional milestone," said Dr. Gregory Couper, surgical director of the heart transplant program at Brigham and Women's.  "This is the first implantation of an artificial heart in a patient needing a heart transplant in New England."

Although this is the first transplant in New England, other artificial heart transplants have already been performed around the United States and internationally.  In fact, artificial hearts are being manufactured by a few companies, one of which is testing their device at 30 sites across the country.

More than five million people in the United States currently have heart failure.  In heart failure, the heart muscles weaken such that the heart is unable to pump a sufficient amount of blood through the body.  If the heart failure is left untreated, then other organs, including the kidneys, begin to fail.

Physicians will first attempt to manage heart failure patients with medications that help get rid of excess fluid in the body while also controlling blood pressure.  For the 50,000 to 100,000 patients with advanced heart failure who cannot be treated with medications, a device known as the left ventricular assist device (LVAD) may be helpful.  LVADs are devices that replace the function of the failing heart, and artificially pump blood throughout the body's circulatory system.

But in some cases even LVADs may not be effective in helping heart function. That is where artificial hearts come into play. The artificial heart acts as a bridge therapy -- a temporary measure until a patient can get off the organ donor waiting list and receive a heart transplant.  

About 2,000 heart transplants are performed in the U.S. each year, although thousands more -- if enough donors were available -- could potentially benefit from them.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
May242012

Baby Saved by Smallest Artificial Heart

Alessandro Di Meo/EPA(ROME) -- An artificial heart the size of a pinky finger kept a 16-month-old baby alive for nearly two weeks while he waited for a heart transplant.

The Italian baby, whose name has not been released, had dilated cardiomyopathy, a disease that stretched the muscular walls of his heart so thin they could no longer contract to pump blood. He needed a transplant. But without a suitable donor on the horizon, doctors had to improvise.

“This patient, he was a mascot for us,” said surgeon Antonio Amodeo of Rome’s Bambino Gesu Hospital, explaining how the baby had been in the hospital’s intensive care unit since he was one month old. “I said, ‘He cannot die; I have to do something for him.’”

Amodeo and his team had already tried a Berlin Heart, a scaled-down version of the left ventricular assist device once worn by former Vice President Dick Cheney. But the device, with its tubes that run outside the body, triggered a risky infection. So they turned to a tiny, 11-gram implantable pump invented by American entrepreneur Dr. Robert Jarvik that had only been tested on animals.

“I said, ‘Dr, Jarvik, please help me. I don’t want to lose this patient,” Amodeo said, adding that the hospital needed special permission from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Italian Ministry of Health before proceeding with the unapproved device. “We knew there were only a few animal experiments, but we knew it could probably work.”

And it did work, keeping the baby alive for 13 days before electrical problems forced the doctors to switch back to the Berlin Heart. Two days later, a donor heart became available.

“It’s incredible,” said Amodeo, adding that the transplant, which took place in April, was successful and the baby will be discharged any day now. “We are all extremely happy because the little boy will be in his mother’s hands. He’s going to be fine.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio