Hope beats eternal for the more than 100,000 patients with severe cardiovascular disease in the United States and Europe and thousands more throughout the world following the successful installation of a revolutionary artificial heart in France.
French doctors say the artificial heart installed into a 75-year-old male can extend the life of a patient by five years and pave the way for longer-lasting robotic substitutes. Powered by watch-style batteries that can be worn externally, the artificial heart was placed into a patient at Paris's Georges Pompidou Hospital last week.
Unlike previous artificial hearts, the new device is celebrated for a range of biomaterials including bovine tissue to reduce the likelihood of the body rejecting it. French doctors say the patient who received the heart is awake and responding well to surgery.
We are delighted with this first implant, although it is premature to draw conclusions given that a single implant has been performed and that we are in the early post-operative phase, Marcello Conviti, chief executive of Carmat, the French biomedical firm that designed the technology, told AFP.
Developed with the help of engineers from the Dutch-based European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company (EADS), the artificial heart weighs 2 pounds almost three times as much as an average healthy human heart. The device mimics heart muscle contractions in ways that other artificial installations could only dream of by enabling sensors to change blood flows based on patient movement.
Inside the heart, surfaces that come into contact with human blood are made partly from bovine tissue instead of synthetic materials, such as plastic, which can cause blood clots.
This artificial heart will stamp France as a destination at the forefront of medical innovation and instill hope in thousands around the globe, said Renée-Marie Stephano, president of the Medical Tourism Association. Patients with heart conditions who have waited anxiously for new treatments will keep a keen eye on this technology and other advances that evolve from this procedure as well.
The current trial model is fit for 75 percent of men and 25 percent of women, but the developers are already working on a more compact solution. It's also a pricey device, but, at about $200,000, it is equivalent to the cost of a real heart transplanted from an accident victim.
Christian Latermouille, one of 16 doctors taking part in the procedure, said the transplant recipient is progressing and recuperating, and that the patient was nearing the end of his life, but the surgery was successfully coordinated and there were no complications linked to the innovative nature of the implant operation.
“He is not walking yet, but we will try to get him sitting and then standing soon enough, said Latermouille. The objective is for him to have a normal life.
Mnimizes Blod Clots
In addition to lessening the risk of blood clots, the Carmat heart promises also to minimize chances of rejection which is not an uncommon occurrence after complex surgery. Most importantly, the device can for the first time provide patients with a viable alternative to a real heart. Even the best current alternatives to the French model are meant for dying patients who are not projected to live longer than one month after surgery.
Thousands of patients die each year while waiting for a human heart transplant, said Stephano. As populations age worldwide, the demand for medical devices that can extend life and help people manage chronic health problems becomes even more imperative.
Carmat claims the artificial heart should enable hospital patients to return home and possibly even resume work.
It's about giving patients a normal social life with the least dependence on medication as possible, said Alain Carpentier, the surgeon who performed the implant. We've already seen devices of this type, but they had a relatively low autonomy.
Heart failure affects more men than women. Carmat hopes to manufacture a smaller version to fit the more petite bodies of women as well as patients in India and China. The company gained permission from French authorities to test the human implants on four patients in three hospitals last September. All were suffering from terminal heart failure.
While the intention is for each heart to keep a patient alive for five years, the success of the device in trials will be judged on whether they survive with the implant for at least a month. Carmat hopes to finish additional human trials of the heart by the end of next year and to obtain approval to market the devices in the European Union by early 2015.
AbioCor is an artificial heart authorized in the United States. The Carmat rival is designed for patients with end-stage heart failure or life expectancy of less than 30 days who are not eligible for a natural heart implant and have no other viable treatment options.