Patient survives six months without heart
A patient in the Czech Republic has become the first person in the world to survive for nearly six months without a heart. The patient, a 37-year firefighter, had a malignant tumor that allowed immediate transplantation as the only alternative. When a donor was not found in time, his heart was replaced by two mechanical pumps.
“Definitely, it was a difficult decision… I decided to fight for life and to undergo surgery. I feel great, both physically and emotionally. Actually, I can’t recognize any difference from normal because my body still functions the same way. The only is that now I have no pulse.”
Historically, the first attempts at implanting a mechanical heart date back to World War II and were gradually repeated as technology developed since 1953. The first pumps were outside the body, where the patient was hooked up to apparatus. The first real implant of a heart pump was made in 1968. The pump was used to support the left ventricle of the heart. What made the operation on Jakub Halík unique was the use of two pumps after the heart had been removed. Professor Jan Pirk, who oversaw the operation, explains why the implantation of the two-pump system was necessary:
According to Professor Pirk, the pumps completely replace the left and right ventricle:
“The left pump sends the blood to aorta, in the body, and the right pump sends the blood in the pulmonary artery and in the lungs. The difference is that the right side system has lower pressure and the left side is a high pressure system. It was very difficult to make it to work with low pressure. We solved the problem within a couple hours.”
“I don’t think it will be soon because I hope these malignant tumors are not be very common disease; worldwide, maybe, but not in a single centre.”