Being Bionic - Cyborg Heart Makes Coronary Death Optional
By the time she returned home, Verna, who received the device as part of a clinical trial, was able to dispense with her oxygen tank and take on household chores. Three years later, she is teaching piano to her five great-grandchildren, cooking meals for her family and driving by herself.
“It has transformed me,” she said.
The device, called HeartMate II and made by Thoratec Corp, was approved by U.S. health regulators in 2008 to keep patients alive while they waited for a heart transplant. But in January, it was approved for permanent use in patients who are ineligible for a transplant, expanding the number of potential recipients from a few thousand to tens of thousands, and potentially changing the landscape for the treatment of end-stage heart failure.
“There has been a ten-fold increase in the use of these devices since they were approved for permanent use,” said Dr. Lynne Warner Stevenson, Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and director, Cardiomyopathy and Heart Failure at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “We are going to know a lot more a year from now but my anticipation is that it will have been the approval of this device in January that will have really set the field in motion.
“To survive, patients must be connected to a lead called a drive-line that runs from the LVAD out through the skin and to a power source. At night the drive-line is plugged into a base unit with a display screen that provides statistical data, which in turn is plugged into a wall socket. By day patients are powered by a set of rechargeable batteries, weighing six or seven pounds, that can be carried around in a bag, holster or vest. The batteries are connected to a controller the size of a paperback book that can be worn on a belt around the waist.
“We like to say I’m bionic,” said Geri Norris, 63, a native of Bristol, England who now lives with her husband in Marlborough, Massachusetts.She is one of the new crop of patients who will live with the device indefinitely. One big drawback, she jokes, is not being able to wear the clothes she likes.”This is not exactly a fashion statement,” she said ruefully, plucking at the light-blue L.L. Bean fishing vest that carries her equipment.While powered by battery, patients can go about much of their daily lives. But being plugged into the wall at night, albeit with a cord long enough for a trip to the bathroom, takes some getting used to.”You know how they tether dogs to a clothes line?” said Norris, with a laugh. “That’s what it feels like.”
SOURCE and IMAGE credits: Reuters and Yahoo News