The Total Artificial Heart
Despite growing demand, the supply of donor hearts has remained the same for the last 20 years. When a donor heart isn't available, replacing both failing heart ventricles with the Total Artificial Heart is the only way to eliminate the symptoms and source of end-stage biventricular failure. This device also eliminates other common problems such as
- Failing Ventricles – the need for inotropes and/or implantation of a ventricular assist device.
- Malfunctioning Heart Valves – TAH patients receive new heart valves so they no longer require open heart surgery to repair or replace malfunctioning native valves.
- Arrhythmias and Other Electrical Problems – The Total Artificial Heart eliminates the need for a pacemaker and/or defibrillator and there is no risk because it is powered by precisely calibrated pulses of air.
- Donor Heart Rejection – During 2008, 10% of people who received the Total Artificial Heart underwent this surgery because they were suffering from rejection of their donor organ.
Because of their larger size, most VADs require the creation of a surgical pocket for implantation. The Total Artificial Heart does not because it occupies the space of the removed failing ventricles.
The SynCardia temporary Total Artificial Heart is the only device that provides immediate, safe blood flow of up to 9.5 L/min through both ventricles to help vital organs recover faster. Once stable, Total Artificial Heart patients in the hospital are listed UNOS Status 1A and moved to the top of the transplant list. Compared to all heart devices, the SynCardia TAH has the highest rate of successful bridge-to-transplant, 79%.
How the Total Artificial Heart is Implanted
The surgeon makes an incision into the chest, removes the patient’s native heart, and implants the Total Artificial Heart within the pericardial sac (a sac wrapping around the heart).
The procedure lasts between five and nine hours and requires a special team of surgeons, surgical nurses, perfusionists, and specialists trained to assemble the TAH and check that it is working properly.
Medicines are used to stop the patient's native heart and a heart-lung machine is employed to keep oxygenated blood moving through the patient's body during surgery.
After removing the ventricles of the patient's native heart, surgeons attach the TAH to its upper chambers. When process is completed, the heart-lung machine is switched off and the TAH takes over, providing both pulmonary and systemic circulation, generating a flow rate of 9.5 liters per minute.