The first total artificial heart was implanted in 1969 and was used for a very short amount of time while the patient awaited transplant. The next total device would not come until 1982 with Robert Jarvik’s famous artificial heart. Current artificial hearts have the drawbacks of fixed heart rates, low battery life, or is too large to fit into many patients. The French company CARMAT has developed their own version of this lifesaving device and it was implanted into a patient for the first time on December 18 in a Parisian hospital.
The purpose of the heart is to sustain life long enough to find a suitable donor organ. The bioprosthetic device can reportedly work for up to five years and is made out of biomaterials to help eliminate the chance of rejection.The artificial heart is powered by an external lithium-ion battery pack and is capable of automatically altering blood flow to match the recipient’s activity level due to a host of advanced sensors.
Unfortunately, the device is not suited for everyone, because it’s about three times larger than a normal heart and will not fit inside of every adult’s chest cavity. While it can be used in about 86% of men, only about 65% of women would be able to make use of CARMAT’s device.
Though it has been less than two weeks since the device was implanted into the 75-year-old male patient, he seems to be tolerating it quite well. Reports indicate that he has been alert, talking, feeding himself, and has even spent some time out of bed already. The device itself seems to be working flawlessly, as it has been responding to his activity levels automatically. The medical staff will give another update on the man’s condition in a week, though CARMAT is reserving comment until more time has passed.
This man is the first patient to get the heart, though three more implants have been scheduled for this phase of clinical trial. Though the device can be used in the interim while patients await a donor organ, that is not the case for these patients. All four have end-stage heart failure, but their advanced age excludes them from receiving a donor organ. Their participation in this trial was their last attempt at extending their life and improving the quality.
Eventually, CARMAT hopes to create a smaller device that can be used permanently, eliminating the need for donor hearts, which can be difficult to get.