First UK total artificial heart transplant
40 year old man is going home after pioneering operation in June at Papworth Hospital in Cambridge
2nd August 2011 - With a shortage of donor organs in the UK, the first successful total artificial heart transplant is a great step forward for people with some types of heart disease waiting for transplants.
Papworth Hospital in Cambridge has announced that in June, 40-year-old Matthew Green became the first person in the UK to have the procedure. This is another first for the hospital which carried out the UK’s first heart transplant in 1979.
Mr Green had been critically ill with arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC), a heart muscle disease that results in arrhythmia (irregular heart beat), heart failure, and sudden death.
He had the mechanical heart fitted in a six hour operation and is now ready to go home.
More than 750,000 people in the UK are living with heart failure. Despite the breakthrough, the British Heart Foundation has cautioned that mechanical hearts are not a permanent treatment for heart failure patients.
A patient's thanks
In a statement issued by the hospital, Matthew Green thanked the staff: "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."
Artificial heart technology
The SynCardia temporary Total Artificial Heart fitted into Mr Green is used for patients where both sides of the heart are failing as a stop-gap while they wait for a human donor heart.
The device replaces both failing ventricles and heart valves and keeps the patient's blood circulating.
The device needs an external power supply, which weighs 13.5 pounds and is carried in a backpack or shoulder bag. Previous devices needed a fixed power supply, so the patient had to stay in hospital.
Papworth's transplant team had special training before the operation.
In a statement, Mr Steven Tsui, consultant cardiothoracic surgeon and director of the hospital's transplant service says: "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 government is trying to address the organ donor shortage with initiatives like making people filling out driving licence application forms to answer donor questions.
"The operation went extremely well and Matthew has made an excellent recovery. I expect him to go home very soon, being able to do a lot more than before the operation with a vastly improved quality of life, until we can find a suitable donor heart for him to have a heart transplant," Tsui continued.
Reacting to the news of the operation, Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director of the British Heart Foundation, says: "For some patients with severe heart failure transplantation is their only hope of long term survival, but donor hearts are not always available. Previous versions of the mechanical heart have supported only the left side of the heart - the side that does most of the work - but the Total Mechanical Heart replaces both sides and so can be used for anyone with severe heart failure."