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September 30, 1993
Background Information on Artificial Heart

The electric artificial heart system consists of a compact electric motor-driven artificial heart, and implanted electronic control system, a device for transmitting power across intact skin, and a shoulder bag battery pack.

Two plastic pumping chambers with plyurethane blood sacs replace the patient's the natural left and right ventricles. The upper portion of the patient's heart, the left and right atria, remain intact to act as holding chambers for the blood, much as they do for the natural ventricles. A tiny electric motor and a small mechanism called a rollerscrew push flat plates against the sacs sto pump the blood. Artificial heart valves--such as those commonly used to replace diseased valves--direct blood flow.

The electronic control system controls the electric motor and blood flow according to the system's assessment of the body's needs. Blood flow requirements, for example, would be different when a person is exercising or sleeping.

The patient carries or keeps nearby a battery pack with two identical batteries each able to power the system for toughly four hours. The battery pack can also e plugged in to an outside power source, though most patients, the researchers suggest, might use this option only when sleeping.

Energy from the battery pack passes radio-frequency current though a ring-shaped coil placed over the skin. An implanted coil receives the energy, providing power for the heart.

The wireless system includes the ability to pass information back and forth between the implanted heart and the outside. Detailed diagnostic information is available to researchers and physicians, and the various manipulations now done on the natural heart by drug therapy can be made by Changing settings on the implanted control system.

The Penn State group began developing artificial hearts and related devices in 1970 and is considered a world leader in the field. The air-driven Penn State heart, used as a temporary bridge to heart transplant, is one of only two total artificial hearts currently approved by the federal Food and Drug administration.


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