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Young Boy Becomes First Human to Live With a Permanent "Robot Heart"

Illustration for article titled Young Boy Becomes First Human to Live With a Permanent Robot Heart

Until now, all other artificial heart transplants were just temporary relief. A 15 year old boy from Italy became the first person to receive a permanent artificial heart, due to the Duchenne syndrome which was wasting his muscles away.


It was this syndrome which meant he couldn't receive a heart transplant, causing doctors in Rome to insert the 4cm-long electrically-activated hydraulic pump "heart' in his left ventricle. A plug behind his left ear and battery attached to his belt powers the heart, which will gift him another 20 - 25 years of life that he wouldn't have had without this operation.

If you compare the unnamed boy's 90g heart with the first-ever artificial heart from 1969, you can see just how far the medical world has progressed in those 41 years. The photo above shows the first-ever artificial heart, which was placed inside a man's heart for 64 hours, while he waited for a donor heart. [Telegraph and Daily Mail]

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I hate to chime on just the medical articles, but these Daily Mail guys are not very good on getting the medical stuff right.

So, when you get a true artificial heart, they take out your old heart and replace it with... an artificial heart. None of your old heart is left behind.

Problem is, true artificial hearts have been somewhat less than successful.

So, along comes the LVAD (left ventricular assist device). LVADs can take a nearly non-functioning heart and help it out, and in doing so the heart actually gets a little bit stronger over time. Twenty plus years ago, we thought the only solution for people with nearly complete congestive heart failure and/or exceedingly low "ejection fraction" (a measure of how well & efficiently your heart pumps) was heart transplant or artificial heart. Now we realize that the outright total-heart-replacement-artificial-heart procedure can be replaced in the vast majority of folks with an LVAD. LVAD is a much better and easier "bridge" to heart transplant than an aritificial heart.

So, LVADs have been around for a while. But their use in children is just beginning. I don't think this is the first LVAD procedure in a child (could be wrong!). LVADs needed to be made a bit smaller for kids' smaller hearts. And in the US, trials for LVADs for kids have not yet opened up I don't think.

It could be this device: