Are you aware of the benefits and risks associated with an artificial heart transplant? Scroll down to find out more on when and why do doctors recommend this procedure.
An artificial heart is basically a mechanical device that is designed to perform the functions of the human heart. Doctors usually recommend the patient to undergo an artificial heart transplant procedure due to non-availability of a donor heart or a long waiting period. Under these circumstances, an artificial heart can help the recipient lead a normal life until a healthy donor heart is available for a transplant. In this article, we will find out more on how this procedure might help a patient with a failing heart along with the risks involved with this procedure.
Artificial Heart Transplantation
An artificial heart is a prosthetic device that is implanted into the patient’s body as a replacement for the human heart. Initially, artificial hearts had the sole function of maintaining the patient’s blood flow whilst the doctors performed a heart surgery. Over the years, immense progress has been made to come up with better alternatives, one of them being the replacement of the pneumatically powered artificial hearts with electrically powered ones. These days, artificial hearts are created with the help of bio-synthetic materials. Transplantation of an artificial heart is a tedious and complex procedure that requires medical expertise. It is a delicate and time-consuming operation that involves the collective work of multi-specialty medical teams.
Once an energy transfer coil is implanted on the patient’s abdomen, incisions are made to cut open the chest region. After the patient is transferred onto a heart lung machine, the right and left ventricles are removed and atrial cuffs are attached into the right and left atria, which are the upper chambers of the heart. A dummy heart is then inserted into the chest in order to get insights regarding the placement of the artificial heart. After that, grafts are sown into the aorta and pulmonary artery and the artificial heart is inserted into the chest cavity. The artificial device is then connected to the upper chambers, pulmonary artery and the aorta. Once the air in the artificial heart is removed, the heart and lung machine is disconnected and the surgeons check if the artificial heart is functioning properly or not.
The risks associated with such a delicate and complex medical procedure are numerous. These include bleeding, formation of blood clots, infection and even a possible malfunction of the artificial heart itself. Bleeding is a serious issue in any surgical procedure and excessive bleeding would necessitate a blood transfusion. Since blood clots can seriously impact the blood vessels and organs, anti-clotting medication may be needed in the event of blood clotting. Infections are also a serious possibility in such a surgery. Surgery usually leaves the body weakened and susceptible to infections. The patient is therefore administered antibiotics and other drugs. The risk of infection is also associated with the device requiring an external source of power as the cords run through holes in the patient’s abdomen.
The artificial heart, is after all, a mechanical device and like all such devices may be subject to malfunction or failure of its pumping mechanism. This may be attributed to failures in power supply or failure of specific parts. One may also have to shell out a huge sum of $100,000 or even more for getting an artificial heart transplant. The cost covers the cost of the artificial heart, the surgery involved, medical follow-up and patient recovery. The cost may be offset partially or wholly if the patient’s insurance policy covers the same. Since one would have to shell out huge sums of money, it’s essential that this surgery is performed by experienced surgeons.
Though there have been instances of people surviving for 150 days and more on an artificial heart, an artificial heart is viewed as interim arrangement until a donor heart is available and ready for transplantation. It does help in improving the life expectancy and quality of life of patients who are medically unfit to receive a donor heart on account of the severity of their heart ailment.