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The Mysterious Human Heart The Mysterious Human Heart border=
A Series by David Grubin


The Replacement Heart
Diagram of the implanted components of the AbioCor replacement heart system
Diagram showing the implanted components of
the AbioCor system.

Image courtesy of AbioMed, Inc.
The world's first self-contained internal artificial heart, the AbioCor, was tested in clinical trials beginning in 2001 and was approved by the FDA for commercial use in late 2006. The AbioCor is designed for patients with biventricular heart failure. Unlike some earlier heart replacement devices, the AbioCor does not require patients to be constantly connected to external air-pumping machines via tubes or wires that pierce the skin's surface. Because there are no connections passing through the skin, the patient is less susceptible to infection.

The AbioCor system includes four components that are implanted inside the patient's body: the thoracic unit, an implanted TET (transcutaneous energy transmission device), a lithium battery, and an electronic controller. The AbioCor's thoracic unit, weighing about two pounds, includes two artificial ventricles and corresponding valves. Its motor-driven hydraulic pumping system simulates the body's natural heartbeat. The implanted battery is continually recharged by a wearable external battery via the TET, which wirelessly transmits power across the skin. The external battery lasts about four hours, and the internal battery lasts about half an hour -- long enough for the patient to take a shower.


Funding is provided by Medtronic, AstraZeneca, and Mars, Incorporated - makers of CocoaVia. Additional funding is provided by the Fannie E. Rippel Foundation. A co-production of David Grubin Productions, Thirteen/WNET New York and WETA Washington, D.C.
Medtronic AsrtaZeneca MARS Thirteen/WNET NEW YORK