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Artificial-heart transplant is a first in Britain

August 02, 2011|By Janet Stobart, Los Angeles Times/For the Booster Shots blog

Reporting from London — An artificial heart transplant procedure, pioneered and developed in the U.S., has been successfully carried out for the first time in Britain, it was announced Tuesday.

Matthew Green, 40, was suffering from arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathia, a disease of the heart muscle that can cause sudden and fatal heart failure. His damaged heart has now been replaced with a plastic, machine-powered Syncardia  temporary Total Artificial Heart and given him a new lease of life while he awaits a suitable heart donor.

Green was running out of time, said Dr. Steven Tsui head of the cardiac team of Papworth Hospital in Cambridge, England, who did the six-hour transplant operation last month to install the temporary artificial heart. Explaining the procedure and the device to the BBC on Tuesday, Tsui said that Green can now return home and probably resume an almost normal life.

The plastic organ  --  a modern version of the Jarvik-7 Artificial Heart, first used in the U.S. in the 1980s and since then in Europe -- replaces Green’s damaged ventricle and heart valves and pumps a constant blood flow of 9.5 liters a minute.  However, he must carry the 13.5-pound motor around in a back pack or shoulder bag at all times.

Papworth is the only hospital in Britain licensed to carry out the procedure. The hospital specializes in heart operations and carried out Britain’s first transplant operation in 1979.

Tsui and his team expect to be busy from now on.  As he told the press, “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.”

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