Matters of the heart

Medical science promises a new lease of life to all potential heart-transplant patients

Published: Sunday 15 March 1998

a good heart is hard to find. Thousands in-line for heart transplants discover this the hard way each year. Over 150,000 potential patients queue up for transplants and only 4000 very lucky ones actually get into the operating theatre and walk out with a new heart and a new lease of life.

Medical science, striving to alleviate human agony, has developed a method that can serve as an alternative to expensive, painful, complicated and often-unsuccessful operations. Called the blood pumping system, it has been heartily embraced by those awaiting transplant surgery.

Cardiovascular disorders easily outnumber all other diseases as the single largest killer in the industrialised nations. And this is why Baxter's Novacor Division of Oakland in California, usa, has been seeking newer ways to help heart patients for almost 30 years now. It has recently succeeded in its endeavours with the development of a blood pump that is almost ready to hit the production lines. Apart from this pump, Baxter has also developed expertise in high-isolation technology, creating an impenetrable barrier the pump and the operator, thereby eliminating all complications that usually arise from unclean environment which plague all transplant patients and also those with pacemakers.

In addition to the implanted electromagnetic blood pump, the system comprises a basic control unit and two storage batteries, each of which is about the size of a walkman and worn externally on a belt. This portability enables the patient to return to his or her activities and follow a near-normal routine at home and at work.

Right now, there are over 600 people who have benefited enormously from Baxter's pump. Continuing experiments with the pump will increase its efficiency and make it even easier to wear, the company's researchers have claimed recently.

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