The first ever entirely-artificial heart transplant in the UK has taken place at Papworth Hospital in Cambridge.
Matthew Green, a 40-year old father who was dying from heart failure, received a plastic implant during a 6-hour operation last month. The device is powered by a “freedom portable driver” and is worn like a backpack or a shoulder bag. The artificial heart serves to replace the role of both ventricles and heart valves, providing a blood flow of up to 9.5 litres, and is seen as a temporary measure until a suitable donor can be found for a patient.
As the Guardian today notes, the operation has previously been successfully carried out in the US and elsewhere in Europe, but this is the first time the operation has been completed in the UK. The operation has major implications for cutting transplant waiting times in the future.
The transplant team was led by Steven Tsui, consultant cardiothoracic surgeon and director of the transplant service. He underwent special training in Paris prior to the operation, assisted by Latif Arusoglu, an expert artificial heart surgeon from Bad Oeynhausen, Germany. Tsui said:
“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. Matthew’s condition was deteriorating rapidly and we discussed with him the possibility of receiving this device, because without it he may not have survived the wait until a suitable donor heart could be found for him.”
The Total Artificial Heart is a modern version of the Jarvik-7 artificial heart. In 1986, a patient received a Jarvik heart which kept them alive for two days prior to receiving an actual heart transplant.
Green is currently preparing to return home from hospital after the successful operation, and he said:
“Two years ago, I was cycling nine miles to work and nine miles back every day but by the time I was admitted to hospital I was struggling to walk even a few yards. I am really excited about going home and just being able to do the everyday things that I haven’t been able to do for such a long time, such as playing in the garden with my son and cooking a meal for my family. I want to thank all the wonderful staff at Papworth hospital who have been looking after me and who have made it possible for me to return home to my family.”