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15-Year-Old Boy Fitted With Robotic Heart

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the stay-away-from-nausicaans,-kid dept.

Medicine 241

An anonymous reader writes "What do you do when a 15-year-old boy is close to death and ineligible for a heart transplant? If you're Dr. Antonio Amodeo you turn to an artificial solution and transplant a robotic heart, giving the boy another 20-25 years of life. The Italian boy in question suffers from Duchenne muscular dystrophy, which rapidly degenerates the muscles and eventually leads to death. Having such a disease renders the boy ineligible for a heart transplant, meaning almost certain death without an alternative solution. Dr. Amodeo found such an alternative in the form of a 90-gram, fully-robotic heart that took 10 hours to fit inside the boy's left ventricle. It is a permanent solution offering as much as 25 years of life and is powered by a battery worn as a belt."

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Crank High Voltage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33787732)

I saw this movie already... Not one of Statham's Best...

I guess I'm not surprised (1)

shoehornjob (1632387) | more than 3 years ago | (#33787750)

The line between human and robot/artificial life form is getting thinner as the science progresses. That must have been a bitch of an operation though.

Re:I guess I'm not surprised (4, Insightful)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 3 years ago | (#33788086)

Well, if you remember in "Bicentennial Man", he slowly perfected artificial human organs, until there wasn't much that couldn't be replaced.

    I'm a bit surprised at the 20 to 25 year claim. I thought it wasn't more than a year or so ago that artificial hearts, though promising, were never practical for long-term use. At best they were a stop gap measure between the original heart failing, and getting a real flesh donor heart.

    I went looking for more information. The most detailed I could find was this 2006 news story [washingtonpost.com]

Of the 14 original recipients, two died on the operating table. The rest survived for an average of 5.2 months, with the longest living 17 months. ...
    The original patients all had a life expectancy of a month or less when the device was put in, and their net gain in longevity was 4.5 months.

    It sounds like they're offering the kid a very optimistic view of life. The article is very short on information, like specifics on the device (who makes it, what it's called, what testing has been done, what have the long term animal trials shown, etc). I'm sure they're very good engineers and doctors, but it would be nice to have more information before people start really believing that they can have an artificial heart with a MTBF of 20 to 25 years.

Re:I guess I'm not surprised (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33788144)

The *heart* have a lifespan of 20-25 years. But the kid, with his Duchenne dystrophy have anyway a much shorter lifespan. The only thing is that his heart will not be the limiting factor now.

This is not news (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#33788174)

Well maybe it is; the fact that the heart is permanently (well, for a couple of decades anyway) implanted is.

My cousin had an infection in her heart and almost died. She lived without a heart for six months, the blood pumped by man-made machinery. This was almost ten years ago.

As to the line between human and robot/artificial life form is getting thinner, I don't agree; there are a LOT of cyborgs walking around. I'm a cyborg; the lens in my left eye is an artificial device that can focus as well at all distances as a young man's natural lens. I know people with artificial joints. And does my new eyesight make me less human than I was before the surgery? Does it make me less human than I'd be had I not had surgery and simply gone blind in that eye?

All heart surgery is a bitch, even getting stents. I'm glad heart disease doesn't run in my family (like I said, my cousin's was a bacterial infection, not Burger King).

Re:This is not news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33788316)

I know that there is no formal definition for this but I would prefer to reserve the word cyborg for those with active prosthesis.
In my opinion there is a small but notable difference between traditional passive prosthesis like a wooden leg and an active prosthesis like a robotic prosthetic limb.

This distinction has nothing to do with human values. I just don't want the word cyborg to lose it's coolness-factor.

Artificial hearts (1)

XanC (644172) | more than 3 years ago | (#33787756)

Such a heart was a big part of one of the worst episodes of Star Trek: the Next Generation [memory-alpha.org] evar!

Re:Artificial hearts (2, Insightful)

XanC (644172) | more than 3 years ago | (#33787772)

Oh, I should also point out it was a big part of one of the best episodes [memory-alpha.org] evar too.

Re:Artificial hearts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33787786)

And a pretty big part of a really good TNG episode [memory-alpha.org] .

Re:Artificial hearts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33788128)

I have never seen that episode. However at 0.28 I discovered Weasly, so i'm going to bail.

Re:Artificial hearts (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 3 years ago | (#33788192)

hey, even if you hated it, you had to love Picard getting stabbed though the heart

Re:Artificial hearts (1)

XanC (644172) | more than 3 years ago | (#33788382)

That wasn't in Samaritan Snare.

Re:Artificial hearts (1)

mr100percent (57156) | more than 3 years ago | (#33788374)

That brings up another point; how come Paramount hasn't put ST:TNG up on iTunes? Everything else Trek is there

25 years is permanent? (1, Troll)

mark-t (151149) | more than 3 years ago | (#33787760)

I must be missing something here... because they seem to be wholly serious on their usage of the term "permanent"... which would imply to me that it should be lasting a heckuva lot longer than until he's forty.

Re:25 years is permanent? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33787792)

He wont live to be 40 so for him it is permanent.

is his name Tony? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33787798)

25 years >> 0 years

Re:25 years is permanent? (4, Insightful)

magarity (164372) | more than 3 years ago | (#33787802)

because they seem to be wholly serious on their usage of the term "permanent"... which would imply to me that it should be lasting a heckuva lot longer than until he's forty.
 
He has a form of muscular dystrophy. They can't replace all his other muscles too and he'll eventually succumb to other problems related to MD. When you're one foot inside Death's doorway at 15, a solution that keeps you alive until ~40 is pretty darn permanent.

Re:25 years is permanent? (0, Redundant)

mark-t (151149) | more than 3 years ago | (#33787840)

No argument on that point, but I would think that a medical solution that qualifies as "permanent" ought to be one that would at least have the capability of lasting long enough for a normal human life span. To that end, this is not a permanent solution, it is a stop-gap measure. What if his condition can be cured before he dies? The heart is still only good for no more than 25 years.

Re:25 years is permanent? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33787864)

They didn't actually say the heart is only good for 25 years, just that's how long he's got left. If they can find a cure by then, the artificial heart may go on working long into old age.

Re:25 years is permanent? (4, Insightful)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 3 years ago | (#33787908)

I would think that a medical solution that qualifies as "permanent" ought to be one that would at least have the capability of lasting long enough for a normal human life span

On the other hand, it's also something they aren't going to be looking to replace before it's in danger of wearing out.

A blue tarp is a 'temporary' solution to a damaged roof. Fixing the roof and replacing the shingles is a 'permanent' solution, in that you're not normally going to be replacing the shingles again until they're damaged or wear out.

I'm a bit surprised, last I remember they only had the one artificial heart and it was a 'complete' solution, not something that fits in one valve chamber.

Re:25 years is permanent? (1)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 3 years ago | (#33788124)

A blue tarp is a 'temporary' solution to a damaged roof.

Not allowed by my HOA. It would have to be a beige tarp.

Re:25 years is permanent? (1)

alta (1263) | more than 3 years ago | (#33788328)

Your HOA statement violates the /. basement dwelling tenants. Please turn in your card.

I guess next your going to start talking about wives and children. poser.

Re:25 years is permanent? (1)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 3 years ago | (#33788324)

To carry your analogy to the appropriate conclusion, a blue tarp might be considered a "permanent" solution to the damaged roof of a specific shed if the structure is expected to fall apart in the next few months.

In this case, even if the artificial heart only lasts 25 years, it'll probably outlast its recipient by at least 10, because very few Duchenne patients make it to 30, much less 40. He's 15 years old, and there's a very good chance that something else will end his life long before he hits the point where this heart is approaching failure.

So this is almost certainly a "permanent" solution to the problem, much as we all hope that medical science progresses to the point where this boy lives long enough to need a replacement.

Re:25 years is permanent? (1)

jridley (9305) | more than 3 years ago | (#33787962)

Where does it say that the heart is only good for 25 more years? It says that he can expect to live another 25 years. That's how long until they estimate the rest of his body will give out.

Also, there's nothing to stop them putting in another heart.

When they say "permanent" they are mainly drawing a distinction between this and early artificial hearts, which were only stop-gap measures to last until a real transplant heart could be found; typically people on them only had a few days or weeks until they died without a transplant. It was extraordinary the first time someone lasted 6 months on one, and I don't think he ever left the hospital.

Re:25 years is permanent? (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 3 years ago | (#33788074)

Because they say that the "heart is expected to give the boy another 20-25 years of normal life". If they had meant that it would last until his condition finally takes his life, they really should have said that... and I'd agree that *that* would be a permanent solution.

Re:25 years is permanent? (1)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 3 years ago | (#33788164)

What it basically means is that now it won't be his heart that kills him.

It'll be his lungs, or his intestines, or his stomach, or what have you.

His disease is not limited to his heart, it degenerates all the muscles in his body at the same time. The heart is simply the most critical piece, and was therefore nearing critical failure faster than anything else.

The boy is still not going to get a full life unless a cure is found. However, since he doesn't have his heart to worry about any more, he can expect another 25 years or so before he finally succumbs.

Seriously, it's powered by an external battery, and they are more than capable of making small pumps that will last 50+ years. The limiting factor is obviously not the pump wearing out.

Re:25 years is permanent? (1)

BlackSnake112 (912158) | more than 3 years ago | (#33788130)

Too bad we are not closer to the prosthetic body idea from Ghost in the Shell. Even if in the experimental stages, this boy might sign up for the chance at a longer life.

Re:25 years is permanent? (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#33788402)

This is one of the first steps to such a device. It's pretty damn amazing. I guess the "only" thing you'd need when it comes down to it, is something that replaces the whole body, provides sugar to your brain, and links up to the brain or the top portion of the spine. I wonder how the brain would react when it can no longer control or receive information from the heart and the various chemical systems around the body, and whether those things need to be emulated to stop your brain from spazzing out..

Re:25 years is permanent? (3, Informative)

zaren (204877) | more than 3 years ago | (#33787808)

Yes, I believe you missed the part where the disease he has causes the muscles in his body to stop working. It's a fairly safe bet the muscles that work his lungs or digestive system... or pretty much any other part of his body... will stop working before this heart fails. Someone with this disease is "lucky" to make it to twenty.

Re:25 years is permanent? (2, Interesting)

magarity (164372) | more than 3 years ago | (#33787930)

the disease he has
 
This is a side note, but muscular dystrophy is a genetic disorder. I know a lot of people call that kind of thing a 'disease' but that term implies a virus, bacteria, or other etc external agent (even the government spraying Agent Orange) came along and caused it. That doesn't happen with MD. He was just made that way so his condition should be labeled accordingly: a disorder. As in, not ordered correctly.

Re:25 years is permanent? (0, Offtopic)

tool462 (677306) | more than 3 years ago | (#33788042)

a disorder. As in, not ordered correctly.

I believe the PC term is "differently ordered."

your concept of disease (2, Informative)

OrangeTide (124937) | more than 3 years ago | (#33788054)

To be more precise disease is where the body's functions are changed resulting in disruption of vital functions. But if the body was always this way nothing has changed so I could see how you might think it's not a disease. But officially MD is a disease. The definition also applied to things like heart disease, which often has a genetic cause.

I suspect that the word "disease" has some connotations for you that don't exist for the rest of us, perhaps you should educate yourself further with a simple dictionary to remove this misunderstanding?

Re:25 years is permanent? (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 3 years ago | (#33788076)

A "disease" implies that the survival of an organism is reduced due to extraordinary internal conditions not related to its permanent environment. For example, mustard gas is not a disease; but bringing a mustard gassed individual into clean air might stop him from dying today, yet leave him with a lung disease due to seriously scarred lung tissue... this will reduce his ability to get oxygen when under heavy physical stress.

Re:25 years is permanent? (2, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#33788158)

I know a lot of people call that kind of thing a 'disease' but that term implies a virus, bacteria, or other etc external agent (even the government spraying Agent Orange) came along and caused it.

Actually no. Historically "dis ease" as in lack of ease, or discomfort. Which would seem to apply to heart failure. Every modern definition applies either at one end to a unique set of symptoms, or any unique pathological condition resulting in those symptoms.

Its like arguing that people often talk about species of insects, therefore they can't talk about species of bacteria.

Re:25 years is permanent? (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 3 years ago | (#33788186)

    With that prognosis, it sounds like an early heart failure is the better way out. I can't imagine having a complete skeletal muscular failure, so you're stuck in bed. Respiratory failure and now you're on a machine to keep you breathing. A feeding tube because you can't swallow. Catheterized and colostomy to capture your waste when you lose control of those functions. Sometimes lucky isn't so lucky for anyone involved.

Re:25 years is permanent? (2, Insightful)

A nonymous Coward (7548) | more than 3 years ago | (#33787810)

It's a lifetime guarantee.

Re:25 years is permanent? (-1, Redundant)

mark-t (151149) | more than 3 years ago | (#33787910)

Not necessarily... if the medical advances in his lifetime allow the degenerative nature of his condition to be brought into manageable control, the mechanical heart still won't last longer than 25 years. Not a lifetime guarantee at all.

Re:25 years is permanent? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33787940)

whooooooosh

Re:25 years is permanent? (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 3 years ago | (#33788036)

If you were attempting to make a joke, it's not funny... having a condition that will end your life early is no laughing matter.

Nor was I attempting to be funny by objecting at their usage of the word permanent... I was merely puzzled as to how something that could be given ANY particular duration in terms of the amount of time it would last to be a permanent solution. While a permament medical solution may very mean only for the rest of one's life, the term implies that it would last even longer than that span of time if he were fortunate enough to live longer than initially expected. Otherwise, it's just a stop-gap measure that will need to be addressed again later if the person lives that long.

It's life (1)

Weaselmancer (533834) | more than 3 years ago | (#33788246)

Everything you do is a stop gap measure - we're not immortal.

Permanent in this case means the same as it does for me or you - until death. Which in this poor kid's definition is most likely shorter than what you or I will get. It's the last artificial heart he'll ever need. So for him, we can say it's permanent. He'll be buried with it.

Re:25 years is permanent? (1)

snookerhog (1835110) | more than 3 years ago | (#33787822)

perhaps "permanent" in this case means that if this really works for 25 years, there will be nothing stopping them from just popping a new one in to extend his warranty for another 1/4c. It is the solution that could be permanent, not this particular robotic device.

Re:25 years is permanent? (2, Insightful)

confused one (671304) | more than 3 years ago | (#33787996)

"Permanent" in this case probably means "Not Temporary" since it's not designed to be removed in a relatively short period of time. Pacemakers are "permanent" in that manner too.

Now get cracking on the MD cure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33788026)

Aside from what everybody else has already pointed out, there is another point. If they find a cure for MD within 25 years, it would be just as permanent for him as it would be for you or me.

When you consider that people with cancer are sometimes willing to prolong their suffering for just a couple years in hope for a cure, 25 years is quite a win!

Re:Now get cracking on the MD cure (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 3 years ago | (#33788322)

I was not criticizing the measure being taken, nor the extending of his life as meaningless because it's "only" until he's forty. Anything they can do to extend the time a person can live a normal life on this planet is well worth the effort. I was merely puzzled as to why they called it permanent when they seemed to put a specific time limit on the measure itself. The wording used in the article does not suggest that he has 20-25 years to live, but that the technology itself will last that long.

Yawn (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33787762)

It's been done.

Have a heart. (-1, Offtopic)

BlueKitties (1541613) | more than 3 years ago | (#33787776)

Spare the robotic heart'd overlord jokes.

(DISCLAIMER: I can make these kinds of jokes because the story ended well.)

Why only 25 years (0)

Stargoat (658863) | more than 3 years ago | (#33787780)

Are there other conditions that limit him to 25 years? Or is it the life of the device? If not, why could a new, probably better, device not be installed in 20 or so years thereby extending life further?

Re:Why only 25 years (1)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | more than 3 years ago | (#33787846)

Duchenne. See summary. He won't live past 40 w/ current med.

Re:Why only 25 years (1)

mea37 (1201159) | more than 3 years ago | (#33788396)

So people keep pointing out, and yet it ducks the perfectly valid question that is raised by the vague wording of the article.

Since his condition could well kill him in less than 20-25 years even with this heart, a lot of us suspect that the 20-25 year figure has to do with the life of the device. Yet if that means that a person (maybe not this person) could live out a term limited only by other factors by having a new heart implanted every 20 years, I'd think you'd say so rather than suggesting that the device gives you up to 25 years.

Now maybe that's because the implant procedure for some reason can only be done once in a given patient. Or maybe there's a practical age limit on surviving the implant. Or maybe a lot of things. The point is the article raises qustions, people are asking the questions, and if you don't know the answer then taknig an easy out by parroting the reason its moot in this case is no better than keeping quiet and waiting to see if someone with knowledge comes along to respond.

Re:Why only 25 years (2, Funny)

bjoast (1310293) | more than 3 years ago | (#33787858)

You can't take for granted that they will find another robot donor!

What is this Logan's Run? (0)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 3 years ago | (#33787784)

" It is a permanent solution offering as much as 25 years of life and is powered by a battery worn as a belt."
Let's see 15 years old plus 25 years means 40.
That is not really a normal life span. Yes this is great news but not what I would call a permanent solution. But even if it only worked for a year it is sort of permanent.

in 20 years a better one will be put in and the ol (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 3 years ago | (#33787856)

in 20 years a better one will be put in and the old one may need to be replaced any ways better to replace it before it fails!

Re:in 20 years a better one will be put in and the (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 3 years ago | (#33787946)

Then it isn't a permanent solution is it?

Re:in 20 years a better one will be put in and the (1)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 3 years ago | (#33788214)

No, in 20 years his lungs will have given out, or his stomach ceases to function, or his intestines fail, or his large arteries collapse.

A pump that lasts 20 years is trivial, and medical devices are generally of extremely high quality, so you can bet your ass that pump isn't going to wear out in 20 years.

Instead of his heart failing at fifteen, something else will fail at 35. That's what it means. It's permanent, and it's going to extend his life by 20 years.

It's the boy who is going to wear out by then, not the pump.

Re:What is this Logan's Run? (1)

durrr (1316311) | more than 3 years ago | (#33787866)

In 25 years he'll eat a pill which grows a new heart to him. 25 years ago he would've had an artificial heart the size of small car inserted into him.

Re:What is this Logan's Run? (1)

operagost (62405) | more than 3 years ago | (#33788344)

That's funny, but by 1982 we already had an artificial heart with a power source that was as big as a dishwasher, but that's a lot smaller than even a Smart car.

Re:What is this Logan's Run? (1)

Peeteriz (821290) | more than 3 years ago | (#33787872)

The disease looks like one that will kill him by the age of 25-30 in any case.

Re:What is this Logan's Run? (2, Insightful)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 3 years ago | (#33787944)

His life expectancy doesn't exceed forty.

I'd call it a permanent solution in that they won't be seriously looking to replace it anytime soon, even if something marginally better comes along.

If, by some miracle, he lives beyond forty and is still in suitable shape for the surgury, they'll likely swap it out for an updated version.

In this case 'permanent' means 'best lasting fix currently available'. You put temporary fixes in while waiting for the permanent fix to be ready.

Re:What is this Logan's Run? (3, Interesting)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 3 years ago | (#33788058)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duchenne_muscular_dystrophy [wikipedia.org]

He's got Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Living to 40 is exceptionally rare, and most people who have this disease don't live to be 30. Sadly, by the time he gets anywhere near 40, another system that cannot be replaced/augmented as easily will probably have failed. The pump they installed will almost certainly outlast him, sad as that concept is.

Still, he was just a few days from death according to the article. Even if he only makes it a few more years, it's a few more than his natural heart could have kept him alive to see, and maybe there will be enough of an advance to patch up whatever other systemic failures lie in his future. I sincerely hope that in 25 years he's looking at a replacement to the pump, but this is sadly probably the last one he'll ever need.

Re:What is this Logan's Run? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33788082)

The human body is not a permanent solution with current technology, so as you point out, it is all relative.

Re:What is this Logan's Run? (1)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 3 years ago | (#33788110)

40 is probably close to the median life span, so I'm not sure I wouldn't call it "normal" -- just maybe, less than optimal in a country that has the ability to transplant a robotic heart into someone.

Re:What is this Logan's Run? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33788194)

He can always hope for Carousel.

I AM IRON MAN! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33787790)

Young Anthony Stark now just needs to learn engineering, and build himself an Exo Suit!

Battery on a Belt (4, Funny)

Bicx (1042846) | more than 3 years ago | (#33787838)

I'd freak out if my heart were powered by something strapped around my waist. The only option would be to build a bullet-proof metal suit with a built-in nuclear power supply. If I had enough energy left over, jet-powered hands and feet along with a dry-witted AI partner in my helmet would be a plus.

Re:Battery on a Belt (4, Insightful)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | more than 3 years ago | (#33787956)

How do you go through life knowing that you are relying on a muscle to beat regularly, every second or two at least, almost without interruption, for more than 2,207,520,000 seconds? Such a minute, weak mass of carbon in a soulless universe, somehow managing to keep itself together for that long... and so many things could go wrong, both within and without.

Yet the majority, while young, neither seem nor need to give it a second thought.

Re:Battery on a Belt (4, Funny)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | more than 3 years ago | (#33788118)

Dude... I'm counting my heartbeats now. ...

I think the gap between the last two was a little slower.

...

... That one was a little faster.

...

I hate you.

Re:Battery on a Belt (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33788162)

I have a phobia of the circulatory system. If I count my heartbeats, the rate really does change because of the anxiety it causes. :p

Biology class was hellish.

And yes I know it's retarded, can't help it, blah blah blah. I'm not even squeamish!

Re:Battery on a Belt (1)

The MAZZTer (911996) | more than 3 years ago | (#33788272)

And now I'M conscious of my breathing. Now you are too. >:(

Re:Battery on a Belt (1)

operagost (62405) | more than 3 years ago | (#33788390)

I hear a whooshing sound, not unlike that of Tony Stark taking his suit for a spin.

Re:Battery on a Belt (1)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 3 years ago | (#33788078)

>I'd freak out if my heart were powered by something strapped around my waist.

Instead its a muscle powered by a complex metabolic process that requires you to eat food, get proper nutrition, etc. Oh, if you eat the wrong foods it fails early and painfully. Enjoy!

Re:Battery on a Belt (1)

Nos. (179609) | more than 3 years ago | (#33788196)

For kids with DMD, a battery strapped to your belt is a hell of a lot more reliable than your own muscles. There are four little boys in my life with DMD, this is fantastic news.

Re:Battery on a Belt (1)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 3 years ago | (#33788228)

I'd freak out even more if I were going to die because my heart was gradually eating itself.

Perspective, man, perspective!

Re:Battery on a Belt (3, Insightful)

mr100percent (57156) | more than 3 years ago | (#33788388)

"I'd freak out if my heart were powered by something strapped around my waist."

Better hope you don't get frisked by an overzealous cop, or a rough TSA agent. There was a /. story many years ago about a guy who sued claiming they tore his "prosthetics" off.

I wish I could feel better about this... (3, Informative)

cypherpu (1915092) | more than 3 years ago | (#33787852)

I wish I could feel better about this, but I don't. Most of these artificial hearts require systemic anticoagulation. Otherwise, they generate clots, which can travel to the brain and create a series of strokes, ultimately killing the patient.. Systemic anticoagulation brings it's own set of serious problems (bleeding tendencies, tissue changes, etc). My best wishes for this young man and his family.

Sounds like a left ventricular assist device. (5, Informative)

Felgerkarb (695336) | more than 3 years ago | (#33787854)

I think the media is playing up the 'robotic' and cyborg angle a bit.

I have only read the linked articles, but the description sounds like a left ventricular assist device, or LVAD. This is a pump that helps the heart push blood, rather than replacing the heart, which is what I generally think of when people talk about artificial hearts. It sounds like the innovation here is the size, its use in a child, and the length of time they plan to use it, since it is generally used as a bridge to transplant.

I think they are optimistic in thinking they can get 25 years, since we really haven't evolved the material science to have implantable devices for that long without provoking clot formation or scarring, but it sounds like they didn't have a lot of options here.

Re:Sounds like a left ventricular assist device. (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33788114)

I was on a LVAD for a couple weeks. Luckily, my ventricle became stable enough to get off before a transplant was needed. I have two artificial valves and an aortic graft. I was told I could only be on the LVAD for 30 days before having a transplant, and I am 31. I can't imagine an LVAD being used to sustain life for 20-25 years. Besides, the actual LVAD machine is quite large, unless they have portable ones that I am not aware of. I can't see someone leaving the hospital with one.

Re:Sounds like a left ventricular assist device. (1)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 3 years ago | (#33788242)

They don't have to play it up, it's entirely accurate: technically the boy is now a cyborg. Simple as that.

In fact, people with pacemakers and artificial hips are technically cyborgs, too.

Re:Sounds like a left ventricular assist device. (1)

Angst Badger (8636) | more than 3 years ago | (#33788368)

I agree; it sounds exactly like an LVAD. I'm similarly dubious about the long-term prospects for this particular patient with this particular device, but perhaps it will buy him enough time for improved technology to become available, whether that's a truly reliable artificial heart or, far better, gene therapy to cure the underlying muscular dystrophy.

Wait a minute here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33787874)

This is Slashdot, where Space Nuttery reigns supreme. We should colonize the entire Universe and gobble up resources everywhere we go, but life extension is evil.

How dare we use technology to extend this person's life span?

OK Taco, erase this comment as soon as you can just like you do with all my anti Space-whackjob posts!

We can rebuild him. (-1, Redundant)

Drakkenmensch (1255800) | more than 3 years ago | (#33787920)

We have the technology. Better. Faster. Bionic!

Re:We can rebuild him. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33788230)

Domo origato.

If only ... (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 3 years ago | (#33787924)

We'd gotten this treatment for the Tin Man. It would have saved him an awful lot of trouble, what with having to go to the Emerald City and all.

How do you know it will last that long? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33787928)

How do they know that the heart will last for 25 years? Was it invented over 25 years ago? Mechanical devices have a nasty tendency to fail earlier than expected in wet, goopy environments like the human body.

Plug behind left ear... (1)

icegreentea (974342) | more than 3 years ago | (#33787932)

Article (and doctor) says that it's powered by a plug that inserts behind his left ear. Does that mean he has a power cable running from his head to his chest? How did they implant that? I somehow doubt they made an incision the whole length. Did they run it along a blood vessel? They also said the implant itself fits into the left ventricle. So is the pump basically just powering half of heart, and relying on residual pressure to work the other half? If he's suffering from muscular degeneration, does having an external source moving what's left of the muscles result in any complications? The graphic (and explanation) seems to indicate that the implant is just pump that forces blood through an inoperative heart. Presumably that's enough enough to work the heart valves.

So many questions!

Re:Plug behind left ear... (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 3 years ago | (#33788122)

Article (and doctor) says that it's powered by a plug that inserts behind his left ear. Does that mean he has a power cable running from his head to his chest? How did they implant that?

It's not terribly difficult to run the wire under the skin up the neck to the ear. Better question is why would you? Convenience? Keeping it outside of the typical shirt? Why not use an inductive transfer?

They also said the implant itself fits into the left ventricle. So is the pump basically just powering half of heart,

That's enough to pump the blood through the body. Better than no working heart at all; and, leaves the original there to do what work it can. Although this doesn't sound like exactly the same device, they've been around for a while: see ventricular assist device.

Re:Plug behind left ear... (1)

mr100percent (57156) | more than 3 years ago | (#33788406)

Inductive transfer is both untested in terms of human use (I think), and you want something that can stay Firmly in place, not fall off if you happen to change your shirt.

Re:Plug behind left ear... (1)

bugsbunnyak (1148775) | more than 3 years ago | (#33788360)

Plumbing of this sort is pretty common for people with hydrocephalus - too much fluid and thus pressure in the brain. In those cases, a small programmable (magnetocouple) valve is installed to maintain a set intra-cranial fluid pressure. One tube runs from the valve into the brain ventricles, and a drainage tube is then run from the valve (affixed to the skullbone), down past the ear, through the neck, and into a chest cavity. The placement is done using a stiff insertion tube/rod which is pushed under the skin from the head down to the target area in the chest (it's pretty damn painful to watch). I would assume that something similar is done with these wires. The point is to seal everything inside the skin for an internally closed system to minimize infection risk. -IANABS (but I do work for one)

Iron Man (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33787952)

So, he's pretty much Iron Man then.

Poor Kid (1)

Boarder2 (185337) | more than 3 years ago | (#33787980)

Will probably have a panic attack if he ever sees Jude Law

Repo Men? (2, Interesting)

WhitePanther5000 (766529) | more than 3 years ago | (#33788012)

This sounds like something straight out of the movie Repo Men [wikipedia.org] , which makes me wonder... how much does one of these things cost? And what happens if you can't pay up?

no broken heart (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33788018)

At least he'll never get his heart broken

My son has Muscular Dystrophy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33788040)

There is cure or treatment. Right now all we can do is watch him every day get alittle weaker as i slowly effects all of his muscles. When your child is born, you never guess that you will end up out living him. If this works, it would offer alittle bit of sunlight in my son's dark future. What would you do to keep your child alive?

Robots, don't forget to fill out your donor cards! (1)

dredwolff (978347) | more than 3 years ago | (#33788070)

"Transplant" means to move from one body to another, they likely meant "implant" unless some robot somewhere literally gave up a component to save that boys life ;)

Dick beat him to it (1)

codepunk (167897) | more than 3 years ago | (#33788100)

Sounds like they just implated a LVAD Left Ventricle Assist Device, Dick Cheney just had one implated a couple of months ago.

Go America! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33788120)

If this boy was in Europe, the care would have been rationed and he'd have been left to die.

Your robot heart is bleeding out (1)

Triv (181010) | more than 3 years ago | (#33788136)

I imagine it to be much like this.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aRcXULN6mp4 [youtube.com]

(can't believe that's actually relevant.)

Warning: robot gang fight.

Journalist BS filter (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#33788184)

"Implanted an artificial heart" somehow got translated into "Transplanted a robot heart" ?

This is the afterlife. And I'm God. (1)

dandart (1274360) | more than 3 years ago | (#33788216)

I hope for his sake he doesn't end up dying and meeting an immortal egotistical cheeky bastard.

Standard Procedure (1)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 3 years ago | (#33788234)

I wonder if in the future, this type of procedure will be standard. Say you hit 55 and the stats say you'd be better off just replacing the heart instead of taking the risk of a heart attack.

I could see this happening. And with millions getting the treatment every year, costs would likely go down 2-3% with HMOs pocketing the rest of the savings.

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