First Total Artificial Heart Successfully Transplanted In the US

The artificial heart has four chambers and runs on external power. Welcome to a new cyborg future.
Ameya Paleja

Surgeons at the Duke University Hospital recently transplanted a total artificial heart (TAH) into a 39-year-old man who experienced sudden heart failure. Unlike conventional artificial hearts, this TAH mimics the human heart and provides the recipient more independence after the surgery, the university said in a press release.

The TAH has been developed by the French company, CARMAT, and consists of two ventricular chambers and four biological valves ensuring that the prosthetic not only resembles the human heart but also functions like one.

The heartbeat is created by an actuator fluid that the patient carries in the bag outside the body and the heart is pumped using micropumps in response to the patient's needs as determined by the sensors and microprocessors on the heart itself. Two outlets connect the artificial heart to the aorta, which is a major artery in the body, as well as the pulmonary artery that carries blood to the lungs to oxygenate it. 

The recipient patient, a resident of Shallotte, North Carolina, was diagnosed with sudden heart failure at the Duke Center and had to undergo bypass surgery. However, his condition deteriorated rapidly, making him unfit for a heart transplant either. Luckily, the Center was one of the trial sites where CARMAT is testing its artificial heart after having received primary approvals from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

The recipient is now stable and being monitored at the hospital; the heart will continue to be connected to the Hospital Care Console (HCC) so that its functioning can be monitored. As part of efforts to lead a near-normal life, the recipient will have to carry around almost a nine-pound (four kgs) bag that consists of a controller and two chargeable battery packs that work for approximately four hours, before requiring recharging. 

The device has already been approved for use in Europe but is only intended as a bridge for patients who are diagnosed with end-stage biventricular heart failure and are likely to undergo a heart transplant in the next 180 days, the company states on its website. 

Last year, the Duke University Hospital began transplanting hearts from donors who had died of heart failure but reanimating them in recipient patients, STAT News reports. Having conducted over 50 such surgeries in the past year alone, the hospital was able to reduce the median heart transplant time to 82 days. As one of six large hospitals in the U.S. that provide heart transplant services, the hospital is already helping reduce wait times and the number of deaths that occur while waiting for heart transplants. 

The hospital conducted a video press conference with the surgeons involved in the transplant and senior staff leading the transplant program. Participating in the conference, the patient's wife, who is a practicing nurse said," As a nurse, I understand how important it is to bring these advancements forward.” 
“Both [my husband and I are so grateful that we’ve been provided an opportunity to participate in something that has the potential to have an impact on so many lives."


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