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Devices used in cardiology artificial heart pacemaker automated external defibrillators implantable cardioverter-defibrillators artificial heart cardiac pump (heart-lung machine) intra-aortic balloon pump left ventricular assist device

Artificial heart

An artificial heart is a device that is implanted into the body to replace the original biological heart. It is distinct from a cardiac pump, which is an external device used to provide the functions of both the heart and the lungs. Thus, the cardiac pump

need not be connected to both blood circuits. Also, a cardiac pump is only suitable for use not longer than a few hours, while for the artificial heart the current record is 17 months.

In some cases, heart disease may be so severe that the patient may not survive the wait for a donor heart. Medical scientists have developed electronic devices such as defibrillators, pacemakers, and artificial heart models that can keep the patient alive until a heart becomes available. The term artificial heart is used for one that is placed in the body, as opposed to an external machine, a cardiac pump. Another difference is that the latter replaces the lungs also, to avoid having to connect both blood circuits to it. Also, a cardiac pump is only suitable for use not longer than a few hours, while for the artificial heart the current record is 17 months.

This synthetic replacement for an organic mammalian heart (usually human), remains one of the long-sought Holy Grails of modern medicine. Although the heart is conceptually a simple organ (basically a muscle that functions as a pump), it embodies complex subtleties that defy straightforward emulation using synthetic materials and power supplies. The obvious benefit is to lower the need for heart transplants, because the demand for donor hearts (as it is for all organs) always greatly exceeds supply.

This synthetic replacement for an organic mammalian heart (usually human), remains one of the long-sought Holy Grails of modern medicine. Although the heart is conceptually a simple organ (basically a muscle that functions as a pump), it embodies complex subtleties that defy straightforward emulation using synthetic materials and power supplies. The obvious benefit of a functional artifical heart would be to lower the need for heart transplants, because the demand for donor hearts (as it is for all organs) always greatly exceeds supply.

Early attempts prior to Robert Jarvik with his Jarvik-7 were disappointing; hosts died within hours or days and/or suffered massive foreign-body rejection problems. Jarvik's human designs were more impressive but his patients succumbed as well, his first Jarvik-7 patient 61-year-old retired dentist Barney Clark survived for 112 days after it was implanted at the University of Utah on December 2, 1982. Another problem is that an artificial heart requires an external power supply such as a battery pack worn on the patient's waist; no design so far has been able to use the body's own natural biological energy.

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