Sunday 28 November 2021

Utrecht surgeons carry out first artificial heart implantation in the Netherlands

An artificial heart. Photo: Carmat

Specialists at Utrecht University’s teaching hospital have successfully implanted an artificial heart into a patient with very serious heart disease.

It is the first time such an operation has been carried out in the Netherlands. The operation is part of a long-term, international research project into an alternative for donor hearts with French firm Carmat. The heart has been licenced for sale in the EU since 2020.

The operation took place at the beginning of November and was successful, with the patient leaving the IC unit within two days.

‘We have been working with our team since 2017 to enable the implantation of an artificial heart,’ said heart surgeon Faiz Ramjankhan. ‘If this treatment proves to be sufficiently sustainable, we will be able to treat many more patients who currently have no other options.’

There is a major shortage of donor hearts in the Netherlands, with some 120 patients joining the waiting list every year.

The artificial heart is connected to a battery pack via a cable through the patient’s abdominal wall. The batteries are carried in a shoulder bag.

‘The artificial heart adapts to the patient via the innovative pumps, valves and sensors,’ said cardiologist Linda van Laake. ‘The human heart pumps an average of four to five liters of blood per minute at rest and this increases with exercise. The artificial heart will also pump faster with exercise.’

Another promising development is that the artificial heart does not require the patient to take heavy drugs to suppress the immune system.

So far 15 patients in France, the Czech Republic, Denmark and Kazakstan have been fitted with the artificial hearts which extended their lives by an average of 216 days. This was enough time for seven of them to be given a donor human heart.

Three more such operations are likely to take place in the Netherlands this year.

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