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First British Patient Receives Fully Artificial Heart

Posted on the 04 August 2011 by Periscope @periscopepost
First British patient receives fully artificial heart

Matthew Green press conference

The first patient in the UK to receive a fully artificial heart said the procedure has changed his life. Matthew Green, 40, suffers from cardiomyopathia, a rare disease that weakens the heart, and required a transplant. Unable to find a suitable donor in time, doctors at Papworth Hospital carried out the operation to replace his heart with a plastic device.

  • British first. Writing in The Telegraph, Richard Alleyne pointed out that UK patients have received mechanical hearts in the past, but that these devices were not as sophisticated as the “plastic heart” transplanted into Green: “They have usually only replaced parts of the organ – and the patient needed to be plugged in permanently to a machine in hospital,” he wrote. By contrast, Green was able to leave the hospital thanks to his “portable heart”. The patient’s departure was not without incident: there was “a brief wave of panic caused by an alarm sounding from his portable powerpack during a press conference with journalists,” wrote Ian Sample in The Guardian. Sample also pointed out that the procedure will not be available to everyone on the heart transplant list: “The device, which costs £100,000 plus £20,000 a year to maintain, is slightly larger than a normal human heart and can only be implanted into patients with large chest cavities,” he said. The artificial heart was developed in the US, and has already been implanted into American patients.
  • Temporary solution. The Independent reported that the artificial heart is only a temporary measure: “I expect him to go home very soon, being able to do a lot more than before the operation with a vastly improved quality of life, until we can find a suitable donor heart for him to have a heart transplant,” said surgeon Steven Tsui, head of the operating team. But Green is still thrilled: “It’s going to revolutionise my life. Before I couldn’t walk anywhere. I could hardly climb a flight of stairs and now I’ve been up and I’ve been walking out and getting back to a normal life,” he told the BBC.
  • Donor shortage. The UK government has launched a pilot scheme to “nudge” more people into signing up to the Organ Donor Registry: anyone applying for a driving licence will be required to opt in or out. This follows a similar scheme in the US. Writing in The Evening Standard, Sam Leith was in favour: “Principle tells us, apparently, that if you don’t like the idea of being buried without your kidneys the life of a teenager on dialysis is a small price to pay for respecting your squeamishness. If that’s so, to hell with principle. Presumed consent should be the very least of it. Harvest them, I say.” But The Daily Mail quoted Conservative MP Peter Bone as calling the scheme “Big State gone mad”: “It’s a back door way of forcing people to decide whether they want to go into organ donation,” he said.

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