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First Total Artificial Heart Successfully Transplanted in a 39-year-old US Patient

A surgical team at Duke University Hospital successfully implanted a “next-generation” artificial heart in the first US Patient.

Matthew Moore, a 39-year-old resident of Shallotte, North Carolina, was referred to Duke after experiencing the sudden diagnosis of heart failure. Duke University Hospital is among those three transplant centers in the US participating in the artificial heart implantation trials. Moore, with his wife, went there just for a heart bypass surgery. As his condition was worsening, traditional treatments, including transplants, became too risky. Therefore, artificial heart implantation was the only option they had.

Carmat, a French company, designed a new solution for patients with end-stage biventricular heart failure. Both of the heart’s ventricles (chambers near the bottom of the heart that pull in and push out the blood between the lungs and other parts of the body) of these patients become too weak to perform their function. Last year, Carmat received approval from the FDA to trial its device in US patients with this condition.

Fall colors brighten the campus of Duke University Hospital and the McGovern-Davison Children’s Health Center.

Making and Working of the Artificial Heart

Similar to the original heart, this artificial heart also has two ventricles. One ventricle is for hydraulic fluid, and the other is for blood, and both of them are separated by a membrane. One side of the membrane that faces the blood consists of tissues from a cow’s heart. A motorized pump is attached that pulls in and pushes out the hydraulic fluid from the ventricles. This fluid movement results in moving the membrane to allow blood flow. Four other biological valves are also made from cow’s heart tissue.

The artificial heart is made of synthetic and biological materials. Other electronics, sensors, and microprocessors embedded in the heart automatically regulate responses to the patient’s movements. For instance, blood flow will automatically increase if the patient is exercising, similar to a real heart. This property of Carmat’s device differentiates it from other artificial heart manufacturers, like SynCardia. SynCardia’s product remains at a fixed rate, meaning that once the heartbeat is set, it will keep beating at the same flow regardless of the patient’s activity.

This next-generation artificial heart weighs 900 grams or just under 2 pounds, which is three times more than the weight of a real heart. Patients have to carry a controller, a small bag of actuators, and a lithium-ion battery with this heart.

For How Long Does Carmat’s Artificial Heart Last? 

For 30 years, scientists have been making efforts to create a device that could replace heart transplants and work physiologically like a real heart: pulsating, self-regulating, and compatible with blood. However, Carmat’s device is just a temporary solution and can be used as a temporary replacement in patients waiting for a heart donor. It is estimated to last about five years.   

Written by: Faiza Amin

Reported by: Imaaz Nadeem 

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