The recent medical breakthrough reported in the media is the fact that a 40-year-old man, Matthew Green, has been given a mechanical heart which will enable him to leave hospital as he waits for a transplant. A total artificial replacement for the human heart has been one of the holy grails of modern medicine.
According to the Daily Mail, “around 900 of the ‘bridge-to-transplant’ devices have been fitted around the world, although Mr Green is the first to receive one in the UK. He had been in a critical condition after developing a chronic heart condition and no suitable donors could be found. With his health deteriorating fast, doctors at Papworth Hospital in Cambridgeshire decided to fit him with the device in a £100,000 operation.”
Mr Green suffers from a condition known as Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy (ARVC), which results in heart failure. It is an inherited heart muscle disorder where damaged heart muscle is gradually replaced by scar tissue and fat. The device he received is used on patients dying from the last stages of biventricular heart failure. The artificial heart can only be used as a temporary measure and it acts as a replacement for the ventricles and valves which have failed. Mr Tsui, director of the transplant service at Papworth, said the operation to fit the new device “went extremely well”. “Matthew has made an excellent recovery. I expect him to go home very soon, being able to do a lot more than before the operation – with a vastly improved quality of life – until we can find a suitable donor heart for him to have a heart transplant.”
The article from the Franklin Institute about the human heart lucidly explains the distinction between the normal heart and the artifical sorts of heart developed so far as:
The action of the artificial heart is entirely similar to the action of the natural heart. There is, however, one huge difference: the natural heart is living muscle, while the artificial heart is plastic, aluminum, and Dacron polyester. As a result, the artificial heart needs some external source of “life.” An external power system energizes and regulates the pump through a system of compressed air hoses that enter the heart through the chest. Since the system is cumbersome and open to infection, the use of an artificial heart is meant to be temporary.
A complete history of the cardiac revolution accomplishments can be shortly illustrated as:
- Dr Denton Cooley implanted the first experimental device in Haskell Carp at St Luke’s Hospital in Houston in 1969. The patient died three days later.
- Following animal testing in the 1970s, the next operation took place in 1982 when the Jarvik 7artificial heart was transplanted into a dentist called Barney Clark. 198 operations followed.
- By 2001 the first completely self-contained total artificial heart was implanted in Robert Tools at the Jewish Hospital in Louisville.
- And in 2008, Charles Okeke was implanted with the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart, becoming the the first patient to leave hospital with an artificial heart in May 2010.
- Since then the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart has been used in more than 900 implants in 65 hospitals.
- Papworth is the 66th hospital in the world and the first in the UK to be allowed to use the SynCardia artificial heart.