It is heart-wrenching to know that among numerous other factors, cardiovascular diseases, including heart failure, become the cause of death of people more than cancer. Heart failures usually result in patients requiring heart transplants. However, no matter how much we have advanced in the medical field, heart transplants are still quite difficult. Finding the right donor and then having the patient survive the new heart poses a great challenge.
Who Needs the Artificial Heart?
Not all the patients presenting with heart failures require artificial heart. People having last-stage biventricular heart failures are the ones who need a new heart, which is preferably done by finding the right donor and carrying out a heart transplant. However, the statistics show that the rate of potential heart donors for transplant is readily decreasing. According to a survey of all the people waiting for a suitable donor heart, about 16% die or become critically ill as the wait becomes too long and detrimental for their health.
What is an Artificial Heart?
It is a synthetically designed device that ensures blood circulation and maintenance of oxygenation in the human body. Two major types of devices qualify as an artificial heart:
1. Heart-Lung Machine
This machine is fundamentally a mechanical pump that is fitted to make sure that the supply of blood and oxygen in conjunction with the role of the lung does not stop during major heart surgery. The device operates by diverting blood from the human venous system to the artificial lung, also known as an oxygenator, by tubes and returning it to the body after being loaded with oxygen.
This heart-lung machine purifies the blood from carbon dioxide and loads it with oxygen – which then circulates throughout the body; thus, delivering fresh oxygenated blood. This is the best support to maintain all the critical functions of the human body, including kidney and brain function.
2. Mechanical Hearts
This category of the artificial hearts is also called total artificial heart, implying that these synthetically designed medical devices can fully replace the natural heart. These mechanical hearts are designed to imitate the pumping duties of the heart for long times. Often, some patients can survive with Ventricular Assist Devices (VADs). As compared to a total artificial heart, a VAD is fitted to support the natural heart in performing its duties.
Specialists decide to opt for total artificial hearts when all the other potential options have failed. These hearts help in prolonging the wait for a donor’s heart while keeping the patient healthy.
Seven Things You Should Know About Artificial Hearts
1. Ever-Growing Demand for Total Artificial Heart
There is a surge in grave medical cases presenting with heart failures while the rate of availability of suitable donor heart is decreasing. A recent review of the cardiovascular cases in the European countries highlighted this issue. Of approximately 3,400 patients waiting to get a suitable donor heart, only 2,400 were successful. This shows the gap that haunts the medical profession regarding the critical state of heart patients in the region.
Moreover, the US Department of Health and Human Services released a report wherein it was stated that, on average, about 4,000 people await a donor heart every year in the US. Meanwhile, the annual statistics for available donor heart remains around 2,300 every year. The report highlighted how the rate of donor’s hearts has been decreasing in the country for the past 20 years.
2. The Currently Approved Mechanical Hearts
Of all the advancements in the medical field and experimentation, there are only two total artificial heart designs that the FDA approves. They include the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart and the AbioCor replacement heart. It is important to have a few, but reliable options for total artificial hearts as the health of the patients is necessary above all.
The AbioCor replacement heart has only been implanted 15 times – among which the first 14 were the part of the initial clinical trial conducted under the FDA Humanitarian Use Device (HUD) Study. The only AbioCor replacement heart implanted otherwise was in 2009. AbioCor was invented by AbioMed, which is a company based in Massachusetts.
3. The Most Common Artificial Heart Used
SynCardia Total Artificial Heart accounts for about 96% of all the heart implants from 1969 to 2014. SynCardia has also come up with a smaller 50cc heart that is suitable for patients with a smaller stature, such as women, smaller men, and children. More than 550 SynCardia artificial hearts have been transplanted since 2010.
4. Chances of Survival of Patients with Artificial Heart
SynCardia total artificial heart has come through in most difficult times in human history. When the rates of donor’s heart are steadily decreasing, these mechanical devices by SynCardia help people with heart failure to survive. However, the prospects of recovery and survival with an artificial heart vary from one case to another.
The longest duration for which any artificial heart receiver survived has been recorded as four years. An Italian PietroZorzetto survived for four years and then had a successful heart transplant in 2011. Another patient has also been known for surviving about three years with a SynCardia artificial heart before his successful heart transplant.
5. Quality of Life
With the SynCardia artificial heart, the patients can have a highly successful prospect at life. The SynCardia artificial heart is best at providing excellent mobility to the patients. They come along with a Freedom portable driver that powers it up. The patients can comfortably exercise and go about their lives and checkups.
6. Helps Bridge the Transplant Rate
Since patients with heart failures cannot wait for long times for a suitable donor heart, most of them die because of this long waiting time if their condition gets worse. Artificial hearts play a significant role in bridging this gap between the wait and receiving of the new heart. FDA claims that about 79% of the heart failure patients successfully survive until a match is found by having SynCardia Total Artificial Heart.
7. Reliable and Effective Design
As SynCardia is the only FDA-approved design with a high success rate, its design is the best example of the discoveries in the process. It has been implanted for more than 1300 times. This artificial heart does not require any sensors, electronics, or motors to be fitted inside the body. The only electronic device that is attached to the body is the pneumatic driver; hence, there is no need to undertake the body under any unnecessary operations.
With a hope that no one ever faces a scenario as grave as requiring a major heart issue, it is essential to state that the wait for a donor’s heart is very excruciating. Artificial hearts are designed to make this wait as easy and normal as possible. With everything at stake, the patients with heart failures have high hopes for living a quality life while waiting for a suitable transplant. SynCardia has shown the most promising results, which is a great lead for numerous successful discoveries to come.