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Although the heart is conceptually a simple organ (basically a muscle that functions as a pump), it embodies complex subtleties that defy straightforward emulation using synthetic materials and power supplies.
Some individuals lived months with an artificial heart, resumed many of their daily activities and underwent successful heart transplants.
Others never left hospital, dying from device or disease complications.
D., is chief of Cardiopulmonary Transplantation, program director and chief of the Center for Cardiac Support, and director of Cardiovascular Surgery Research at the Texas Heart Institute.
As a result of his work, THI has become one of the top transplantation and mechanical circulatory support programs in the world. Frazier has performed over 1,200 heart transplants and implanted more than 900 left ventricular assist devices, more than any other surgeon in the world. Frazier’s interest in mechanical circulatory support began in 1969, when, as a student at Baylor College of Medicine, he wrote a research paper about the experimental total artificial heart, which was first implanted in 1969 by Dr.
In other cases, patients battled infections, bleeding, strokes and device malfunction after their implants. Artificial heart research teams published their device challenges and setbacks in the medical literature.
Journalists reported on various experimental devices that had been implanted in patients, often including color photographs from the operating room. Nonetheless, NIH continued to support multiple device approaches, bolstered by the confidence and optimism of researchers that a viable mechanical heart would be forthcoming. Today, artificial hearts are a clinical reality in the form of total artificial hearts and ventricular assist devices (or partial artificial hearts).In doing research for my book, Artificial Hearts: The Allure and Ambivalence of a Controversial Medical Technology, I discovered a range of patient experiences with these devices.A small but innovative group of researchers experimented with device mechanics, biomaterials, implant tolerance in the body, and other issues.They battled persistent technical problems such as blood clotting in the device, power source issues, pump malfunctions, and more. Frazier has been a pioneer in the treatment of severe heart failure and in the fields of heart transplantation and artificial devices that may be used either to substitute for or assist the pumping action of the human heart. Frazier continued experimental work toward developing an implantable left ventricular assist device (LVAD) to aid the failing heart, which he first implanted in 1986 with the Heart Mate I; this device has become the most widely used implantable LVAD in the world. Frazier implanted the first successful continuous-flow total artificial heart, using two second generation Heart Mate II LVADs to replace a patient’s failing heart. These are life-sustaining devices that do a remarkable thing: they alter the usual course of events that when a person’s heart failed, that person died.Cardiac surgeon William De Vries, holding a Jarvik-7 artificial heart next to a model of the human heart, circa early 1980s. Research and development edged forward, shifted sideways, and even abandoned problematic lines of investigation.After a decade of research, funding to develop nuclear-powered artificial hearts was halted.Variable characterizations of success sustained the hope that viable devices would be developed, despite discouraging patient results.It was an imperfect technology, but one that became ‘good enough’ in a medical culture shaped by aggressive surgical fixes and a reluctance to accept limits.