The BBC reported last week that another plastic heart implant was installed in Matthew Green. Green is a 40-year old man who is in end stage heart disease and has been waiting for an organ for transplantation.
Green recovered nicely from the surgery and is home with his wife and son. The plastic heart is powered by a portable driver that is carried in a backpack. The driver weighs about 7 kilograms and is certainly not silent.
The surgery was performed by a team of surgeons from Papworth Hospital in Cambridgeshire. The plastic heart replaced his heart and will serve as a bridge between the diseased heart and a heart from a donor. This operation marks the first time a resident of the UK has been permitted to leave the hospital with the plastic heart.
Green said, “It’s going to revolutionize my life. Before, I couldn’t walk anywhere. I could hardly climb a flight of stairs and now I’ve been up and I’ve been walking out and getting back to a normal life.”
Steve Tsui, a consultant cardiothoracic surgeon said Green would not have lived long enough to get an organ. “At any point in time there may be as many as 30 people waiting for a heart transplant on our waiting list at Papworth, with one third waiting over a year.”
The plastic heart is used on patients who suffer biventricular heart failure. Biventricular heart failure occurs when both sides of the heart are failing.
The plastic heart replaces both failing ventricles and the heart valves in these areas. This relieves some of the symptoms of heart failure but is not a long-term solution. Plastic hearts are intended to serve as a bridge.
Papworth Hospital handles about 2,000 heart operations per year. This is the largest heart care hospital in London. The center began using mechanical devices for heart patients in 1980.
The plastic or Total Artificial Heart is an updated version of the Jarvik-7 artificial heart used in the 1980’s. The risk for these implants is similar to the risks of the L-VAD used in the U.S. The heart must always be connected to a power source. This source cause leads to run from the pack through the skin to the plastic heart. This can lead to infection that can make the recipient ineligible for transplantation until the infection is completely cleared.
However, Mr. Green, a nine mile per day cyclist just two years ago, was barely able to walk a few yards two months ago. Progress is progress no matter how it is measured. If Green receives his long-term solution a true transplant, this will have been a step from the waiting list to the recovery list. For candidates waiting interminably for an organ, every option must be considered.