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Posts Tagged ‘ventricular assist

Alive and well with no heartbeat ? Maybe.

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The search for the perfect artificial heart seems never-ending… Surgeons remain stymied in their quest for a machine that does not wear out, break down or cause clots and infections.

But Dr. Billy Cohn and Dr. Bud Frazier at the Texas Heart Institute say they have developed a machine that could avoid all that with simple whirling rotors — which means people may soon get a heart that has no beat.

Inside the institute’s animal research laboratory is an 8-month-old calf with a soft brown coat named Abigail. Cohn and Frazier removed Abigail’s heart and replaced it with two centrifugal pumps…

“You can see she’s a vigorous, happy, playful calf licking my hand,” [says Cohn].

In March, after practicing on 38 calves, Cohn and Frazier felt confident enough to try their device on a human patient. They chose Craig Lewis, a 55-year-old who was dying from amyloidosis, which causes a buildup of abnormal proteins…

A ventricular assist device has a screwlike rotor of blades, which pushes the blood forward in a continuous flow.

Thousands of people have one of these implanted close to their hearts, including former Vice President Dick Cheney. By using two, the doctors replaced both the right and left ventricles — the entire heart…

“The pulsatility of the flow is essential for the heart, because it can only get nourishment in between heartbeats,” Cohn says. “If you remove that from the system, none of the other organs seem to care much.”

Craig Lewis lived for more than a month with the pulseless heart. He died in April, due to the underlying disease. His doctors say the pumps themselves worked flawlessly.

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Written by K B

June 18, 2011 at 10:00 am

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