Children's Health & Safety Association

Issue 43: July 2018

Sunday, 30 September 2012 20:00

A Gift of Life - Baby Receives World's Smallest Artificial Heart

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September 28, 2012 - This is not a safety story. It does not contain information that you can incorporate into your daily life or the lives of your children. It is not a story of what to be 'mindful of' or 'careful for'. This is a story of a medical miracle that I read a while ago – one that stayed with me, and one that I wanted to share with you. This is a story of wonderment and joy, hope and thankfulness – for children everywhere.

In March 2012, Dr. Antonio Amodeo, a Heart Surgeon and his team, performed a life saving implantation of the smallest artificial heart into a 16-month-old baby boy that weighed just 5.5 kilograms at Bambino Gesù Hospital in Rome, Italy, keeping him alive for 13 days until the baby received a real heart transplant.

The device invented by Dr. Jarvik is a titanium pump weighing only 11 grams, which can endure a flow of up to 1.5 litres of blood per minute. To give you an idea of how small this artificial heart pump is, take into consideration that an adult artificial heart weighs 900 grams.

The baby boy suffered from dilated myocardiopathy (deteriorating heart muscle) with a serious infection around a mechanical pump that was fitted earlier to support the function of his natural heart. Dr. Amodeo stated that the baby had become a member of the family at the hospital and they wanted to do everything they could to help him. “The patient was in our intensive care unit since he was one month old. He was a mascot for us - he was one of us,” Dr. Amodeo said.

“This is a milestone,” Dr. Amodeo told Reuters television, adding that while the device was used as a bridge leading to a transplant, in the future it could be permanent. "From a surgical point of view, this was not really difficult. The only difficulty that we met is that the child was operated on seven times before,” he said.

Bambino Gesù Hospital focuses on child health, rare diseases and organ transplant and they have the highest national percentage of kidney transplants from living donors. They are the only hospital in Europe that offers transplantation of organs, tissues and cells.

The identity of the baby has not been disclosed. "Today, I am happy to report, that the baby boy is in good health," said Dr. Amodeo.

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