French surgeons implant the first artificial heart

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For the first time an artificial heart has been successfully transplanted in an unnamed 75-year old male patient in France at the Georges Pompidou Hospital in Paris.

The artificial heart that was design by the French Carmat biomedical firm, boasts that it can give patients up to five years of extra life.

Carmat was granted permission from the French authorities last September to test the implants on four patients suffering from terminal heart disease.

Prof Alain Carpentier who is a cardiac surgeon and founded Carmat said: “It’s about giving patients a normal social life with the least dependence on medication as possible. We’ve already seen devices of this type but they had a relatively low autonomy. This heart will allow for more movement and less clotting. The study that is starting is being very closely watched in the medical field.”

In an interview with the Journal du Dimanche, Prof Carpentier said that the heart mimics heart muscle contractions and contains sensors that adapt the blood flow to the patient’s moves because it incorporates an “algo-rhythm” that allows it to “reproduce exactly the contractions of a real heart”.

“If you see your lover walk through the door, your Carmat heart will beat faster just like a real one,” he added.

The Carmat heart that was developed with the help of team of engineers from EADS - European space and defence group (who owns a 33 per cent stake in Carmat) is powered by lithium-ion batteries that are worn externally, and the device contains bovine tissue instead of synthetic ones which helps reduce the chance of blood clots and rejection.

The current model needs to be developed into smaller versions because it now weighs 900 grams - almost three times as much as an average healthy human heart - and it can fit in 86 per cent of men’s bodies, but only about 20 per cent of women.

If the trials are successfully completed, and if Carmat gets approval from the EU to market the artificial hearts, they could be expected to cost between €140,000 (£120,000) to €180,000 (£150,000).

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