Health and Medicine

Surgery and Other Treatments

When was the first artificial heart used?

On December 2, 1982, Dr. Barney B. Clark (1921–1983), a 61-year-old retired dentist, became the first human to receive a permanently implanted artificial heart. It was known as the Jarvik–7 after its inventor, Dr. Robert Jarvik (1946–). The 7.5-hour operation was performed by Dr. William DeVries (1943–), a surgeon at the University of Utah Medical Center. Dr. Clark died on March 23, 1983, 112 days later. In Louisville, Kentucky, William Schroeder (1923–1986) survived 620 days with an artificial heart (November 25, 1984, to August 7, 1986). On January 11, 1990, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recalled the Jarvik–7, which had been the only artificial heart approved by the FDA for use.

Two models of a total artificial heart (TAH) are now available that can replace the ventricles (the two lower chambers) of the heart. Eligible patients must have “endstage” heart failure, meaning all treatments except a heart transplant have failed. A TAH may keep patients alive while they wait for heart transplants or may keep patients alive who are not eligible for a heart transplant. The two brands are the CardioWest and AbioCor. The CardioWest is connected to a power source outside of the body via tubes that run from inside the chest to the outside through holes in the abdomen. The AbioCor is a battery-powered TAH that is completely contained in the chest. The battery is charged through the skin with a special magnetic charger.


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