McGowan Institute faculty member Peter Wearden, MD, PhD, performs life-saving procedures in an experimental program to assess an artificial heart pump for children. He recently led a surgical team involved in the successful clinical trial of the Berlin Heart. The Berlin Heart is an experimental, child-size artificial heart pump—or ventricular assist device (VAD)—that keeps children in life-threatening heart failure alive while awaiting a heart transplant.
For years, VADs have been used successfully for adults awaiting transplants, but only recently have U.S. researchers focused attention on devices for the tiniest heart patients. At Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, surgeons have been working with a European VAD called the Berlin Heart. At Children’s, they have implanted the device in 5 patients, each having received successful transplants.
Dr. Wearden explains how the device works. "It basically assists the heart," Dr. Wearden told The Pittsburgh Channel. "The blood goes into a sack, and then that sack is forced by air to cause an ejection of that blood, so it sort of replaces what the ventricle of the heart would do."
Currently, the Berlin Heart is the only heart-assist device currently available for babies and children. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires it to be used on at least 100 patients before it considers approval of the device on a routine clinical basis. In addition to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, there are 5 other centers across the U.S. involved in the clinical trial of the Berlin Heart.
The Pittsburgh Channel (10/03/07)