Being Heartless-101

Throughout history, the medical field has been a platform for experiments and discoveries. With the goal of longevity in mind, doctors and researchers have attempted to understand the complexities of the human body. To this day, they have succeeded in developing numerous medicines and treatments to counter this complex mystery of sickness and disorders. 

One of modern medicine's celebrated advancements is the development of an Artificial Heart. This human-made heart is a synthetic device that replaces the biological heart and maintains blood circulation in the human body. 

According to the World Health Organisation, heart diseases are the current leading cause of death. Estimated to have claimed the lives of 17.9 million lives this year, CVD's or cardiovascular diseases result from our changing lifestyles. Lack of physical activity, unhealthy food habits, and increased use of alcohol and tobacco are some of the main risk factors.

With an increase in heart disorders, there has been a significant advancement in developing treatments to counter the same. Angioplasty, bypass surgery, pacemakers, and blood-thinning medicines are some crucial developments. However, modern medical research made a breakthrough when artificial hearts became a reality. 

An increase in heart patients led to an increased need for heart transplants. But, there was a limit to the supply of donor’s hearts, and it would be days before a patient would receive a donor heart that would match. Hence, the need for an artificial pumping machine grew, leading to the first clinical implantation of a mechanical heart in 1969. However, this merely acted as a bridge to the actual heart transplant. 

Since this first implant, researchers have tried to develop a more permanent solution to artificial heart designs that can be used in patients. This led to the first clinical replacement of a biological heart with a permanent pneumatic artificial heart in a 61-year-old heart patient, Barney Clark. This synthetic device, called "Jarvik heart" (after the physician who invented it), accompanied Clark as he survived 112 days more. 

Today, the modern version of the "Jarvik heart" is called the SynCardia temporary Total Artificial Heart. Used for the past 35 years, this is the only heart design commercially approved and which has already been implanted more than 8000 times. Known to support patients of varying ages, the longest surviving patient with this artificial heart lived for more than 4.5 years. 

However, this miracle implant does not come without complications. Although this helps end-stage heart patients with severely damaged hearts, it has its risk factors. Severe acute rejection due to the presence of foreign material in the body can result in infectious complications. Blood clots, bleeding, and device malfunction are some other risks that these patients may undergo.

Nonetheless, several patients who remained stable have been discharged and can enjoy a more or less normal and active life at home with their families. There have been several instances where these patients have gone on hikes, ran marathons or enjoyed sports while running on an artificial plumbing system.

The artificial counterpart of the most vital organ in the human body continues to see progress. Researchers and medical experts are looking for increased durability, reduced size and increased efficiency in artificial heart technology. With these innovations and life-saving advancements, we have the ever-active field of medical research to thank. Developments of the soft silicone-based heart using 3D printing techniques and smaller artificial hearts with titanium shells are some of the few improvements.  

Given the progress made over the past few years, life sustainability seems easier to grasp now.  However, despite the availability of such treatments, it is always important to lead a healthier and happier lifestyle.