An artificial heart is an extra pumping chamber that can pump blood throughout the body to help a person with a failing heart. Artificial hearts are usually used as a temporary measure for people who are waiting for a donor’s heart or who are recovering from heart damage. They can also be implanted, as a last resort, on a permanent basis.
An artificial heart is made up of metal and plastic. It is a combination of both and has a small pumping chamber. This pumping chamber is lined in a material that helps to prevent the formation of blood clots within the chamber. The pumping chamber can be implanted within the body or left outside. It all depends on the type of artificial heart being used.
An artificial heart is small and can function independently of any tubes or cables through the skin. It has to be independent to reduce the risk of infection due to breaks in the skin. People with an artificial heart are also given certain medications to take to help reduce this risk of infection.
An artificial heart works by allowing blood to enter from either the right or the left atrium. The blood is then pumped into the aorta or the pulmonary artery. Which atrium the blood enters through and where it is pumped to after, all depends on which side of the heart the artificial heart is supporting.
The artificial heart gets its power through electricity or compressed air. There is a thin cable that connects the pumping chamber to a control console. The control console is used to regulate the functioning of the pump. The control console is outside of the body and can be worn by the person on either a belt or a vest.
It has the ability to be disconnected from the opening in the body so that the person wearing it can take a shower. The artificial heart is then running on a battery that will give them three or four hours without the control console.
Once implanted, artificial hearts can usually be used for as long as it is necessary. For people waiting for a donor’s heart, this time period can range from a few weeks until a few years. Other people who do not qualify for a heart transplant, for whatever reason, can have an artificial hearts implanted on a permanent basis.
There are a few problems with artificial hearts. As mentioned previously, the risk of infection is high because of the break in the skin that is needed to connect the artificial heart with its external power source.
Another problem is that the medications required to increase the risk of bleeding complications. Blood-thinning drugs are given to help the body reduce the tendency to form clots. But, by doing that, the body is slow to form clots for any injuries throughout the body, thereby causing bleeding complications.
Despite the problems, artificial hearts are extremely important to the longevity of the human race. The age of life expectancy will continue to rise as long as devices such as the artificial heart are invented and used.
IMPORTANT WORDS TO KNOW
CONTROL CONSOLE: A small device that controls the pumping speed of the heart. It is implanted in the person’s abdominal wall.
INTERNAL BATTERY: The rechargeable battery that is implanted inside the person’s abdomen. It allows the person to disconnect the external battery and take a shower.
EXTERNAL BATTERY: The battery that can be worn on a belt or vest.