Technological developments in medicinelook to have come up trumps yet again, as Harry Chivers from County Down has become the first person to benefit from a revolutionary heart pump that seems to have saved his life. Instead of remaining on a long waiting list for a heart transplant, the father-of-three opted instead for a ground-breaking treatment that required the fitting of a Miniaturised Ventricular Assist Device (MVAD). The initial signs look good as Harry is over two weeks into his recovery period and already senses that his breathing is far better than before, after the device that is about the size of a golf ball had been installed.

Harry’s future had looked bleak

It is quite a turnaround for the retired 63-year-old, who had not been given much hope of survival by doctors prior to the new treatment. One expert had even suggested that he was a “dying man”, in the aftermath of a heart attack as recently as last August.

Harry was initially placed on the transplant waiting list as many have done before him. However, when the alternative pioneering option came to light, he gamely volunteered for the treatment at the Freeman Hospital located in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

How it works

The MVAD is positioned adjacent to the heart itself and acts to assist in the essential action of pumping the blood around a person’s body. In order to charge the small device, a connection is required to a battery pack via a wire passing out of Harry’s abdomen.

Besides being much smaller than previous artificial hearts and having a weight of just 78 grams, the MVAD also has the advantage of being adaptable to the individual patient. It can enable both full and partial support capability. Although by no means inexpensive at around £80,000 per unit, it could transform the lives and survival prospects of thousands of people.

Children with heart disease could also benefit from the device due to its reduced size.

Shortage of heart donors

With heart donors being in particularly short supply at present, perhaps the greatest reason to acclaim the MVAD is the prospect of its usage avoiding a need for a transplant at all. Before it can become a feature of the general medical ‘landscape’ though, it will now need to enter into an extensive trial period around the world.

Future medical devices likely

There is the prospect for further development in the future, as it is hoped that a family of miniaturised devices could help to improve other patients’ fortunes without the reduced size of the devices compromising on clinical performance levels.