A Heart Without a Pulse

Another step in the development of artificial hearts is being helped by a nearly three million dollar grant from the National Institutes of Health. The Texas Heart Institute is going to continue work on a pulse-less total artificial heart. Capella Tucker reports.

Many previous heart assist pumps have a pulse like a heart. But those devices have complications. Texas Heart Insitute Cardiopulmonary Transplantation Chief Doctor Bud Frazier’s work has turned to continuous flow pumps. The new federal funding will look at the possibility of having two pumps implanted to create an artificial heart. This has not been done in humans yet. Frazier says one issue to be studied is to get the pumps to respond to the body’s blood needs. Those change according to a body’s activity.

“Simply the increased pressures maybe all that we will need and that has what our research so far has suggested, that we don’t need to change the speed of the pump once we’ve established the most adventagous speed for the size of the patient.”

Frazier implanted the first continuous flow pump in 1988. He says these devices have advantages. They are small with the pump part being about the size of a thumb.

“You know these big pumps that we’ve been working on forever, we’d only had about five percent of patients have been women. Women have heart failure too and, not as frequetly as men, but they still have it more frequently than that. Since we’ve been using these small continuous flow pumps, last time I looked 35 percent of the patients have been women.”

Capella Tucker, KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.