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article imageWorld's smallest artificial heart gives infant new lease on life

By Yukio Strachan     May 23, 2012 in Health
Doctors implanted the smallest ever artificial heart into a 16-month-old baby, making it possible for the baby to survive for 13 days before the infant received permanent organ donation.
Back in March, Italian doctors were faced with a situation in which a baby—who hasn't been identified—would not be able to survive until the point at which a real heart would be available for transplant. So, the medics made the bold decision to try and implant the world's smallest artificial heart, to tide the child over, Gizmodo reports.
"The device, a titanium pump weighing only 11 grams and that can endure a flow of up to 1.5 litres per minute, was used in an emergency case of a 16-month-old infant suffering from dilated myocardiopathy with a serious infection of the ventricular assistance device that had been implanted previously,"Antonio Amodeo, from the Bambino Gesu Hospital in Rome, explained to AFP.
The operation, the first of its kind, used the tiny device to simulate heart palpitations before a real heart was later transplanted.
According to the Children’s Cardiomyopathy Foundation (CCF), Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is the most common form of heart muscle disease and accounts for approximately 55–60% of all childhood
This condition is the most common form of cardiomyopathy
“Dilated” refers to the enlarged or stretched muscle fibers of the heart. DCM usually starts in the left ventricle, the chamber that pumps oxygenated blood to the body.
A normal heart is shown on the left compared to a heart with dilated
cardiomyopathy on the right. No...
A normal heart is shown on the left compared to a heart with dilated cardiomyopathy on the right. Note the increased dimensions of the left ventricle.
screenshot from handout
Like an overstretched rubber band, the heart muscle becomes weak and is unable to pump blood efficiently.
This forces the heart to work harder and the heart chamber to enlarge. In some cases, the heart becomes so
weak that it cannot pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs, limiting the amount of physical activity that can be performed. Fluid may also build up in the lungs and other organs once the disease progresses to congestive heart failure.
According to the pediatric cardiomyopathy registry database, this form of myopathy is detected in roughly one per 200,000 children with roughly one new case per 160,000 children reported each year in the United States.
It is more commonly diagnosed in younger children with the average age of diagnosis at 2 years old.
It can have both genetic and infectious/environmental causes.
According to the American Stroke Association, Dilated cardiomyopathy is one of the leading reasons for heart transplantation in children. Heart transplant is only considered in children who have such serious heart disease that there are no other medications or support devices available to sustain the child.
A heart transplant offers the child with DCM the chance to return to a normal lifestyle.
And in this case, it looks like the return to a normal lifestyle is already happening. "At present, at more than one month from the surgery, the infant is in good health," Amodeo said.
More about Artificial heart, Baby, Antonio Amodeo, Heart transplant, dilated cardiomyopathy
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