Understanding Total Artificial Heart

A total artificial heart is a pump implanted in your chest to take over the job of your failing heart. It’s a temporary device until you can receive a heart transplant with a donor heart. This may be called a “bridge to transplant.”

How does it work?

The pump takes over the work of the heart’s lower chambers (ventricles). It also replaces the heart valves which control blood flow in the heart. It’s connected to a machine outside the body called a driver. This portable device powers the artificial heart. The driver is at your bedside in the hospital. Once discharged, you carry the driver with you in a backpack or a shoulder bag. It’s connected to the heart with tubes tunneled under the skin.

Why procedure is done

A total artificial heart is used in advanced heart failure and other heart conditions when a donor heart is not yet available for transplant. It may be used when a ventricular assist device (VAD) is not an option. Other reasons a total artificial heart may be used:

  • Ventricular arrhythmia that is not controlled

  • Congenital heart defects in end stage

  • Broken or ruptured ventricles Failing left ventricle after valve replacement

  • Blood clots in the blood vessels

  • Heart transplant rejection

How procedure is done

  • You will receive medicine to make you sleep during the surgery.

  • You will have a breathing tube connected to a ventilator to help you breathe. You will also be hooked up to a heart-lung bypass machine which will keep blood oxygenated and circulating in your body.

  • Your chestbone is cut open.

  • The surgeon uses medicine to stop your heart so they can operate on it.

  • The ventricles are removed and the artificial ventricles are attached to the upper chambers, heart valves, and major arteries.

  • After the total artificial heart is attached, the heart-lung bypass machine is turned-off and starts the total artificial heart.

  • The chest incision may be left open for one day after surgery.

  • If the total artificial heart is working properly and there is no unusual bleeding, the chest is closed

Expect to spend several weeks or longer in the hospital as you recover. During this time, your healthcare providers will help you learn to care for your device. You will need to take anticlotting medicine to prevent blood clots and other medicines to help your recovery and prevent infection. Cardiac rehabilitation may be recommended to help you safely increase your activity level while being supervised by healthcare professionals. You’ll also learn about heart healthy lifestyle changes.

Risks of procedure

  • Blood clots

  • Stroke

  • Anemia

  • High blood pressure

  • Bleeding

  • Infection

  • Liver or kidney failure

  • Death

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