Entries in Italy (2)


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


Woman Dies After Contracting Legionnaires' Disease at Dentist's Office

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(ROME) -- An 82-year-old Italian woman died after she contracted Legionnaires' disease, a severe, pneumonia-like illness, from the water in her dentist's office, according to a case report published in the journal The Lancet.

Scientists who determined the source of the woman's illness, which occurred in February 2011, said during the disease's incubation period the woman only left her home twice to visit her dentist.

When they tested the water in both places, they discovered the bacteria that causes Legionnaires' in the dentist's water line.  Water lines carry water from the main water supply to certain devices used during patient care.

While the authors wrote the most common sources of infection are air conditioning systems, hot water systems, spas and fountains, a recent study found dental water lines to be another major source of contamination with Legionella bacteria.  Legionella pneumophila is the bacterial strain that causes Legionnaires' disease.

"However, as far as we are aware, no case of Legionnaires' disease has been associated with this source of infection," added the authors, led by Maria Luisa Ricci of the Italian National Health Service.

While it was not clear what kind of water line standards were in place in Italy, in the U.S., the American Dental Association (ADA) said infection control standards are very stringent in order to prevent cases like the one in Italy from happening.

"Since the ADA convened a special task force in the mid-1990s focusing on infection prevention, there have been a number of recommendations made to treat the water and keep the number of bacteria down," said John Molinari, the ADA's spokesman on infection control, infectious diseases and allergic reactions.

The ADA recommends that dental water lines contain no more than 500 colony-forming units of bacteria per milliliter of water, the same limit recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The ADA also recommends that dentists monitor water quality and maintain a water reservoir that is separate from the municipal water supply, as well as use filters that will keep microorganisms out of the water.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio