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Medicine Technology

French Team Implants First Long-Term Artificial Heart 106

Posted by timothy
from the bunch-of-greedy-capitalist-heart-makers dept.
TrueSatan writes "Physicians at the Georges Pompidou European Hospital in Paris have inserted a heart made by the French Carmat company. The heart features bovine tissue components used to reduce the clot forming tendencies of fully artificial units and is intended to allow greater freedom of movement to the patient than previous, short-term use, units permitted. It is powered by external, wearable, lithium-ion batteries and is approximately three times heavier than a typical (European) human heart, though the manufacturer intends to reduce the weight and size of the unit so as to allow use by smaller recipients — in particular most women and men from areas of the world where average body size is less than white/Caucasian averages."
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French Team Implants First Long-Term Artificial Heart

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  • It's all Obama's fault.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Thanks, Obama!
      • by Noishkel (3464121)
        For my money it's more likely a case of people succeeding regardless of the designs of their political masters.
      • by Noishkel (3464121)

        I would also point out that the heart was made by a French COMPANY. It was merely installed by a university hospital.

        Of course maybe the company that made it is in bed with the French Government, which might bring prudence to the idea that 'socialism did this'. But I doubt that given that socialism hates innovation, as a general rule.

      • by Noishkel (3464121)
        Of course the somewhat ironic thing here is that ObamaCare has little to do with actual socialized medicine. Under socialized medicine you just end up having to pay a taxes and receive sub-par medical care for it. Under ObamaCare you get to pay whatever the insurance company decided to make you pay and hope that you get enough of a subsidy to not looks your house when you don't, can't, or won't pay it. Yes, yes, that's not ALL of it. But it seems to be the salient point of it all.
        • by sjames (1099)

          Actually, socialized medicine tends to provide quality healthcare. It's our screwed up high cost system that tends to be sub-par. Even more so if your insurance runs out.

        • Under socialized medicine you just end up having to pay a taxes and receive sub-par medical care for it.

          I guess that's why the U.S., by any measure, has the lousiest medical care in the developed world.

  • Seriously, once in a while I like to kind of just take these sort of advancements at face value. It's just astonishing to me that we are so close to alleviating at least one facet of the organ transplant shortages that have so many people waiting for so long in uncertainty. This day could not get here fast enough and I hope that it becomes a true milestone down a great path for medical technology.

    But damn that is an expensive pump.

    • Whatever it costs, it's worth it. Can you imagine the heartbreak at being told "we couldn't save your son, but the good news is that his heart is keeping Dick Cheney alive"?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Barney Clark - Sometimes used for the name of a cheeseburger with bacon and a fried egg on top, but also the 85th recipient (according to Wikipedia) of a long-term artificial heart in 1982. He only survived about 4 months, but that wasn't the plan. The second recipient of the Jarvic heart lived almost 2 years.

    Short-term artificial hearts have been implanted since the 60's. Long term (long being a relative term) implants have been going on for a long time.

  • by Guppy (12314) on Saturday December 21, 2013 @03:47PM (#45755439)

    In modern times, Artificial Heart designs have been diverging into two camps. This one belongs to the old-school cardiac mimics -- complex multi-chamber pumps designed to mimic the pulsatile flow of a natural heart. The bovine pericardium lining is a clever idea -- we already make bio-prosthetic valves (mostly from pig heart valves). As the material is non-living connective tissue, it doesn't raise the same acute rejection problems that living xeno-grafts have. And, while most patients with such valves still require permanent treatment with drugs to prevent clots, the required degree of anti-coagulation is much less than those required with mechanical valves.

    The other school consists of the pulse-less turbine-type devices. Instead of mimicking a natural heart, these devices use a high-speed rotating impeller to drive fluid flow. It was once thought that the shearing forces of an impeller would result in too much damage to red blood cells, and that pulsatile flow of blood was a necessary feature physiological feature, but non-pulsatile later-generation Ventricular Assistive Devices have demonstrated this is not the case. Currently, all such devices are only used as adjuncts to a failing natural heart, and there are no such devices approved as complete replacements -- yet. Compared with their more complex cousins, these devices are smaller and lighter, and mechanically more robust. However, they suffer from issues with clots and damage to leukocytes, due to the artificial materials used.

    In either case, it will be interesting to see how the devices performs out in the field. The expected Five-year lifespan of a unit doesn't sound like much, but keep in mind many patients will be elderly, and your goal may simply be to give them improved quality-of-life, until in a few years something else kills them instead.

    • by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Saturday December 21, 2013 @04:19PM (#45755653)

      The turbine devices would be great for confusing first-aid people.

      "I can't feel a pulse!"

      • by Dorianny (1847922)

        The turbine devices would be great for confusing first-aid people.

        "I can't feel a pulse!"

        Kinda hard to miss the battery and the wires going into ones chest!

    • by Cyno01 (573917) <Cyno01@hotmail.com> on Saturday December 21, 2013 @09:42PM (#45757427) Homepage

      I always found that split in artificial heart design interesting and analogous to flapping vs fixed wing in aircraft design.

    • Assuming I was in the situation of needing an artificial heart, I would choose one that mimics pulsatile over pulse-less. The reason being is that I'm pretty sure arteries and veins have adapted to take advantage of the constant flexing from the pulsation. Perhaps it's the pulsation that helps prevent clotting through the constant pulsating motions of fluid. Otherwise, the fixed positive pressure may do nothing to prevent the accumulation of certain plaques. In any case, it's works and the brain has already

    • The expected Five-year lifespan of a unit doesn't sound like much, but keep in mind many patients will be elderly, and your goal may simply be to give them improved quality-of-life, until in a few years something else kills them instead.

      They article states that

      The longest a patient has lived with SynCardia's heart is just under four years.

      That means it's not a small stap in increasing the lifespan.

  • Seriously... why try to replicate the original heart design when you could make something so much better? And why just ONE heart? What kind of engineer came up with this design? You'd do better to have MULTIPLE hearts pushing blood through your body. I'd have no less than three in me, if i had the option.

    I think that was an option in a CyberPunk book. Replacing the heart with a system of small blood pumps located throughout the body. That sounds good to me.

    • I'd make a few improvements myself too. Like installing sphincters on the brachial and femoral arteries that can constrict in the event of extreme trauma. It would substantially improve survival rate in serious accidents.

      One heart can be enough, but it'd better be a very reliable heart. No single points of failure where a clot or blockage can cause the whole thing to shut down.

      • Like installing sphincters on the brachial and femoral arteries that can constrict in the event of extreme trauma.

        That already happens naturally. In case of some extreme trauma (like accidental amputation), there is massive vasoconstriction at the site of the severed limb, which lowers a bit the loss of blood and increase chance of survival.

        One heart can be enough, but it'd better be a very reliable heart. No single points of failure {...}

        The best way to be reliable against single point of failure is to have redundancy.
        hum... RAID-6 Hearts system anyone ?

        • The heart's fatal (literally) flaw is in its own blood supply. Lots of critical points - if either coronary artery is blocked, failure will occur immediately. Likewise for all of their branches. That's a common failure mode. A better-designed heart would be able to operate if any single component failed, though perhaps at a reduced capacity until the patient could be hurried to hospital for repair.

    • It's definitely not a new idea...

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FInoU0wzgzY [youtube.com]

  • by wickerprints (1094741) on Saturday December 21, 2013 @03:57PM (#45755511)

    Now I can finally realize my dream of faithfully reenacting having a Nausicaan skewer me through the back in a bar fight...although I'm not sure I'll have the presence of mind to laugh deliriously afterward.

  • they care.

  • His small European heart grew three sizes that day.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Where can I apply to be a repo man?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Reading the article and seeing how expensive it is (around $200,000) to get, it seems like it would make healthcare more expensive. I suppose many new devices have very high costs at first (lots of R&D and low volume), but not all of them start out at 6 figures! Do insurance companies end up paying for this? I totally support advancing our medical capabilities, but the US spends wayyy too much on healthcare already.

  • In the US, about 70% of cardiovascular disease is caused by obesity, and even more is probably preventable by good nutrition. It's better to keep the original in good working order than to try to replace it.

    And now that we all are forced to pay for each other's medical care, this is also a question of money. Why should people who eat healthy and don't have these risks pay for the high cost of artificial hearts (or heart transplants) in people who made poor nutritional choices?

    • by speedlaw (878924)
      Knowing someone who made good health choices, but had congestive heart failure anyway, and is now alive due to an LVAD (Left Ventricular Assist Device), I'd say that you don't have any clue about the real world. Yes, some folks drink or smoke themselves sick, but guess what ? Parts fail. We'll just leave you by the side of the ER when yours do...
      • by stenvar (2789879)

        Knowing someone who made good health choices, but had congestive heart failure anyway, and is now alive due to an LVAD (Left Ventricular Assist Device), I'd say that you don't have any clue about the real world.

        Because, of course, a single anecdotal piece of evidence disproves decades of health care statistics and dozens of scientific studies!

        Yes, some folks drink or smoke themselves sick, but guess what ? Parts fail.

        It's easy to tell whether someone is obese (or drinks or smokes). If you are obese, you sho

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sjames (1099)

      If you want people to make better nutritional choices, you should support increasing the minimum wage and encourage shorter working hours. When people have enough time and money. they make better choices.

  • From TFS:

    It is (...) approximately three times heavier than a typical (European) human heart>/quote> This guy can now work as one of those specialists that break bad news to people ('you're fired', 'the operation was not a success', 'Paul Walker died', 'your son was KIA').

    No lying when he says: "It's with a heavy heart that I inform you that..."

  • They are usually meant as bridge while waiting for a heart transplant. But for one reason or another the patient never get son the list or transplant. Then the LVAD becomes a defacto long term terminal artificial heart.

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