Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Heart transplants

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What is a heart transplant?

A heart transplant is a medical procedure also known as a cardiac transplantation. It involves surgically removing a diseased or dysfunctional heart and replacing it with a healthy human heart from a donor.

Why do people require this procedure?

This procedure is necessary for someone with a diseased, damaged or virally infected heart. As you know, muscles in our body require plenty of oxygen enriched blood, the heart muscle is obviously no exception and this is supplied by the coronary artery. If this artery is clogged by plaque build up or is damaged and not functioning properly, the heart does not receive the blood it requires and the muscle can die. This is not an uncommon condition and it causes heart attack and results in permanent damage to the heart muscle. A person with this condition would require a cardiac transplant. Sometimes people have a dysfunctional heart for other reasons and an alternative medical solution, such as valve replacement may be sought. This procedure is required if the patient has dysfunctional or diseased valves in their heart. This involves replacing the sick valves with artificial ones or bio-prosthetic pig valves.

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Seventy thousand valve replacements are made in the U.S every year. Another treatment a person with a sick heart may undergo is angioplasty, this is where a catheter is inserted into a clogged artery to physically clear the blockage and assist it in regaining its original shape and function. If no alternative treatments can be used then the person will be assessed for a heart transplant.

Generally to receive this procedure a patient must

· Be suffering from a chronic heart disease

· Be in good health apart from the heart disease

· Be likely to die without a new heart

· Be able to live with the post-surgery lifestyle changes, e.g., drug treatment and regular checkups

· Have had all other therapies ruled out.


A heart donor must

· Be brain dead

· Be relying on the aid of a life support machine

· Give consent

· Also, consent must be given by family or relatives

Many potential donors do not give consent.

The Procedure-

The operation usually takes between and 6 hours. The person is kept alive with the aid of a heart and lung machine, which pushes the blood away from the heart, artificially oxygenates it, and then pumps it around the body. During this time the surgeons make an incision into the chest and detach the diseased heart. They will then place the healthy donor heart into the chest and connect the blood vessels; the blood is then allowed to flow through the heart. The heart begins beating and the person is taken off the heart lung machine. After the operation a patient would usually stay in hospital for more than a week, it is necessary to regularly see a doctor, as they will need to see if the new heart has been rejected. The body recognizes the new heart as foreign tissue and the immune system will try to reject it and the patient will have no way of knowing. Most patients experience rejection to some degree but thanks to the development of anti-rejection drugs most survive.

Some facts about heart transplants-

· In Australia the average patient that undergoes a cardiac transplant, lives between 10 and 0 years.

· 0% of patients survive 1 year and 70% live at least 10 years.

· The operation can be given to someone of any age, however it is not as successful in elderly people.

· The first transplant ever performed on a human being was in South Africa in 167.

· Australia’s first was in Sydney in 168.

· In the U.S there are more than 000 transplants are performed every year.

· The number of people who could benefit is far greater.

· Also in the U.S 7% of people undergoing transplants are male and 74% are white.

· 4% are aged between 50 and 64, and 1% are aged between 5 and 4.

· There is a band called the transplants.

A heart transplant is a great medical breakthrough, giving life to many who would otherwise die. Unfortunately not everyone can receive a heart transplant, due to a shortage of donor hearts. Many people could donate organs for transplants however they don’t and if they do give consent the donor’s family often overrules it. There is a long list of patients waiting for a heart and currently 0% of these will die before they receive one. This problem spurred medical scientists to come up with a “bridge” to overcome the stressful and dangerously long waiting period.

The Heart Mate is one answer, developed in Boston U.S.A; this device takes on the role of the muscles in the left ventricle (the main pumping chamber) of a sick heart. The Heart Mate, which is about the size of a fist, is implanted and completely portable. Attached to an external battery the Heart Mate even allows patients to exercise. One patient has been recorder to walk a mile each day. This will give him a fighting chance when he finally does undergo a transplant, as his body won’t be completely unfit. Currently in development is the Heart Mate II which could ultimately replace a transplant altogether for some. However, this would not be the first artificial heart.

In July last year, a man from Franklin, Kentucky in the U.S.A received the first fully contained artificial heart. Robert Tools who is 5 asked to have his identity kept secret until early this year, when he requested a media conference where he told about his survival and his new lifestyle with a fully contained, fully synthetic artificial heart.

The device called the “Abiocore” was developed by an organization called Abiomed and is the first artificial heart that does not rely on an external power source. Instead it is recharge by sending electricity through the skin to the implanted batteries. Bob’s story is a massive encouragement to all medical scientists and gives researches a foothold into the resolution of the problems caused by common diseases to the heart.

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