Doctors save life of toddler after they implant him with the world's smallest artificial heartThe tiny heart weighs only 11grams compared to 900grams for an artificial adult heart
08:56 GMT, 25 May 2012
Doctors have saved the life of a 16-month-old boy after they implanted him with the world's smallest artificial heart.
The device, which only weighed 11grams, kept the toddler alive until a donor organ was found.
Italian heart surgeon Antonio Amodeo and his team implant a tiny titanium pump, the world's smallest artificial heart in a baby
The boy had the operation at Rome's Bambino Gesu hospital last month and had the implant for 13 days before he had a transplant. He is now doing well.
The baby was suffering from dilated myocardiopathy, a heart muscle disease which normally causes stretched or enlarged fibres of the heart. The disease gradually makes the heart weaker, stopping its ability to pump blood effectively.
'This is a milestone,' surgeon Antonio Amodeo said.
He added that while the device was now used as bridge leading to a transplant, in the future it could be permanent.
Before the implant, the child also had a serious infection around a mechanical pump that had been fitted earlier to support the function of his natural 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,' he said.
Italian heart surgeon Antonio Amodeo holds the world's smallest artificial heart in his right hand
The device is being used as bridge leading to a transplant
The tiny titanium pump weighs 11 grams and can handle a blood flow of 1.5 litres a minute. An artificial heart for adults weighs 900 grams.
Mr Amodeo said the baby had become family and his team wanted to do everything to help him.
'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 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 said.
Doctors said the device, invented by U.S Dr Robert Jarvik, had been previously tested only on animals.
The hospital needed special permission from Jarvik and the Italian health ministry before going ahead with the procedure.