16 Month Old Baby Implanted With World’s Smallest Artificial Heart

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16 Month Old Baby Implanted With World’s Smallest Artificial Heart

May 25, 2012: Italian doctors have implanted the world’s smallest artificial heart into a 16-month old baby boy in order to save his life and to keep him breathing until a heart donor is found for a transplant. The doctors at Bambino Gesu hospital in Rome carried out this operation last month, but made it public this week.

Suffering from dilated myocardiopathy, the baby was kept alive for 13 days before the operation and is reportedly doing well now. Dilated myocardiopathy is a heart muscle disease that usually causes enlarged fibers of the heart, gradually making the heart weak and finally stopping its ability to pump blood effectively.

Surgeon Antonio Amodeo said that this is a milestone and added that this device used as a bridge leading to a transplant could be permanent in the future. As per the reports, the child had severe infection before the implant around the mechanical pump that was fitted earlier to support the natural functioning of his heart. “From a surgical point of view, this was not really difficult. The only difficulty that we met is that the child was operated on several times before,” surgeon said.

The artificial heart is a tiny titanium pump that weighs merely 11 grams and is capable of handling blood flow of 1.5-litre per minute, whereas the artificial heart for the adults weighs 900 grams. The surgeon said that his team wanted to do everything in order to save the child as he became family. “The patient was in our intensive care unit since one month of age. So he was a mascot for us, he was one of us,” the doctor Amodeo said. “Every day, every hour, for more than one year he was with us. So when we had a problem we couldn’t do anything more than our best,” he added.

The Italian doctors reported that the smallest artificial heart was invented by American Doctor Robert Jarvik and had been previously tested only on animals. Thus, the hospital took special permission from doctor Jarvik and the Italian health ministry before operating the child. Hence, the baby boy is the first human child to get implanted with the world’s smallest artificial heart.

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