A glimpse of future or a dead end?
Heart failure is a common cause of mortality in developed countries. There are number of treatments for heart failure, including medication, devices (ICD, biventricular pacemaker = cardiac resynchronization therapy, CRT) and in some cases surgical procedures. However, despite all conventional care, some patients suffering from heart failure gradually deteriorate and may need heart transplantation as the last resort.
The main problem with heart transplantation is the lack of available donors which means that sadly many patient with end-stage heart failure die whilst waiting for the transplant. Total Artificial Heart (TAH) is a possible solution for those patients. It is a device which replaces the function of both right and left ventricle of the heart, thus providing adequate blood flow and oxygen supply to the body. TAH can be implanted as a bridge to heart transplantation or as a destination therapy for patients who are not suitable for heart transplant.
There are several different types of TAH available nowadays. Some of them are using external power source, while others are placed entirely inside the chest and are powered by magnetic charger through the skin. In Britain, the first patient to leave hospital with an artificial heart was Matthew Green who received the SynCardia TAH at Papworth Hospital in Cambridge on 9 June 2011.
Although TAHs may provide lifesaving help, they are used only in a very limited number of patients because they the implantation procedure is very complex with frequent complications. The devices, operations and the surrounding care are of course extremely costly. However, scientists and doctors are giving their best to improve the TAHs in order to help patients with the terminal stage of heart failure.