French Implants First Bioprosthetic Artificial Heart

This week they successfully implanted the first artificial heart in France. The ground-breaking operation took place on Wednesday’s at the Georges Pompidou Hospital in Paris using a Carmat bioprosthetic device.

Carmat Artificial HeartCarmat Artificial Heart  "We are delighted with this first implant, although it is premature to draw conclusions given that a single implant has been performed and that we are in the early postoperative phase", said Carmat's CEO, Marcello Conviti.

Call me crazy, but I thought we already implanted artificial hearts?

I did a little research and we’ve been implanting devices since 1969 to partially assist the heart. The first implant intended to actually replace the function of a heart, permanently, was in 1982, 31 years ago. It was invented by a ventriloquist, which is an unusual story in itself, yet despite high hopes, it only functioned as a bridge to give the patient time to find an actual donor heart.

Even this “artificial heart” made by SynCardia which has been implanted in 1200 patients, is still intended as a bridge, and not as a replacement for a real heart. The longest a patient has lived with SynCardia's heart is just under four years.

There are more than 8 artificial heart prototypes vying for the position as best device to actually replace the real human heart.  

The Carmat artificial heart weighs in at almost 3 times the weight of a real heart, and it’s designed to mimic the heart’s muscle contractions, using sensors that adapt the blood flow to the patient's moves for as long as 5 years.

Inside the device, the surfaces are coated partly with bovine tissue instead of synthetic materials to reduce the likelihood of blood clots and it’s powered by external, wearable lithium-ion batteries.

It will take a lot more time to really evaluate the safety and longevity of this implant, but it brings more hope to the thousands of people who die every year waiting for a heart transplant.