Bioethics News

Artificial hearts. Update on clinical use and ethical assessment

After 2500 artificial hearts implanted only in Europe. Until now it has been only implanted in patients with very severe heart failure, almost terminal.

The use of artificial hearts (a device that replaces the functions of the heart) is increasing worldwide, and in fact, they have already been used in 26 patients in Spain and in 2500 in Europe.

While this practice gives rise to exciting medical possibilities, it also raises some ethical issues that we addressed in a previous article (see HERE). We will now update the latest findings on this practice.

Technically, artificial hearts consist of a continuous flow pump that can pump approximately 10 litres per minute from the left ventricle. The healthy heart can pump around four.

These hearts have a wire that exits the body at the belly button and connects to a small computer powered by 2 batteries, which last for between 8 and 10 hours; their half life is around 10 years.

Artificial hearts are placed inside the chest and connected to the heart in order for it to pump the blood to the aorta. The surgical procedure is not very long — around 2 hours — and has now been substantially simplified, as only two small incisions are required: one at the lower end of the heart and another near the aorta.

There is no doubt that the artificial heart is a major medical advance for patients who require transplant and who, for some reason, especially due to a lack of donor organs, are unable to have one.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.