World’s Smallest Artificial Heart

17 Jun

Denton Cooley tried to implant one in the 1960s, an act that led to the great feud between him and Dr. Michael DeBakey. The war is chronicled in Tommy Thompson’s wonderful book, HEARTS.


Dr. Denton Cooley

When I was training at the Texas Heart Institute, founded and directed by Dr. Cooley, the device was still undergoing its growing pains, but in recent years artificial hearts have vastly improved. There are folks out there with what are called Left Ventricular Assist Devices (LVADs), basically mechanical boosters for the heart, who have been walking around, playing sports, and doing very well for many years.


LVADs pump blood from the left ventricle (the heart’s main pumping chamber that sends blood out to the body) into the aorta (the main artery leaving the heart). When a heart has been damaged and is failing at its primary function of circulating an adequate volume of blood to the body, an LVAD can boost the heart’s output. The LVAD was designed to assist a weak heart and keep the person alive while awaiting a donor for a heart transplant. But the newer devices are so effective that some patients have removed themselves from the transplant list as they are doing just fine with the mechanical device. Some for nearly a decade now.

Now the group at Rome’s Bambino Gesu Hospital has implanted the world’s smallest LVAD into a 16 month old. It weighs only 11 grams and is smaller than the surgeons little finger. This is amazing stuff.



Posted by on June 17, 2012 in Uncategorized


6 responses to “World’s Smallest Artificial Heart

  1. fieldnurse

    June 17, 2012 at 10:07 am

    Extremely amazing, and we have come a long way. How is the little bambino doing? Last I read, he/she was making it.
    Thanks for sharing all of your information. First book I bought of yours was ” Forensics for Dummies”!!


    • D.P. Lyle, MD

      June 17, 2012 at 3:38 pm

      Last I heard all was well. Hope you have found Forensics For Dummies useful—and fun.


      • fieldnurse

        June 21, 2012 at 5:18 pm

        ….. And every other book you have written!
        I graduated from “Forensics for Dummies”. Well the “dummies” part anyway!;))


  2. Beth Anderson

    June 17, 2012 at 11:19 am

    I wish they’d had those tiny hearts available about ten years ago, when one of my granddaughters was born with the left ventrical not connected to the lungs and half of the heart was not there at all. They tried the operation that can save the lives of those babies, but hers didn’t work and she only lived three months after she was born. Amazing what can be done, more every year, and since she was born in one of the experimental hospitals, I’m happy to see that now this problem is not as hard to correct as it was then.


  3. Louise Behiel

    June 17, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    amazing is right. I work on the periphery of health care and am constantly amazed at what is going on in the field. wow.


  4. Brenda

    June 17, 2012 at 3:49 pm

    Thanks for sharing this!!!!! I always enjoy your blog.



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