Teen Gets 1st ‘Robotic Heart For Life’
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04 October 2010
Charged Like A Cellphone, It Will Allow Italian Boy 25 Yrs Of Normal Life
In a first of its kind, a 15–year–old Italian boy has undergone a permanent artificial heart implant, which is expected to allow him to lead another 20 to 25 years of ‘normal life’.
The unnamed Italian boy, who had to undergo a ten–hour operation to implant the artificial heart last week, was reported to be recovering well and was able to interact with medics at Bambino Gesu children’s hospital in Rome.
Doctors have decided to give him the artificial heart as the child was suffering from the muscle–wasting illness Duchenne’s syndrome. He was very close to his death and was ineligible for a heart transplant, the Daily Mail reported.
Officials at the hospital said the artificial heart is expected to give the boy another 20 to 25 years of ‘normal life’.
Antonio Amodeo, who carried out the 10–hour–long breakthrough operation, said the heart is 2.5 inches long and was placed inside the left ventricle and its connection with the ascending aorta. He said: "The device is an electrically activated hydraulic pump and is entirely located inside the thorax, in order to reduce the risk of infection.
"It is powered through a plug positioned behind the left ear and connected to a battery that the patient holds on a belt and is charged during the night like a mobile phone.
"This is the first time such a device has been placed in a young child and should give him an improved quality of life even though he is suffering from Duchenne’s syndrome."
According to the doctors, the device weighs just over 85 grams compared to adult ones which can weigh nearly a kilo and the boy is expected to remain in intensive care for another two weeks.
"Despite the length of the operation he woke up fine and when his mother called he said he could not talk as he was brushing his teeth," said Amodeo.
"This surgery opens up new horizons as there are many children who need transplants but the number of donors is very small and there are some who, like this patient, cannot be transplant candidates because of illness," Amodeo added.
He said the surgery was unique as up until now it had only been performed on adults. Last year Andrew Ames, 13, became the world’s youngest boy to be given an artificial heart pump, which was implanted to support the rest of the organ in an operation at the Freeman Hospital, Newcastle–upon–Tyne.
The first completely artificial heart was given to an unnamed man in Louisville, Kentucky, in 2001. A battery pack was fitted to his thorax to power the device.
A 15–year–old girl was given an artificial heart in 2006 in Alberta, Canada. But the latest implant is to be used on a permanent basis rather than a more common temporary artificial heart.