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Dr. Antonio Amodeo  (Source: EPA)
The 10 hour operation has given him 20-25 additional years of life

A 15-year-old boy from Italy is now the first child patient ever to receive a permanently implanted artificial heart. The boy, who remains unnamed for now, has been dealing with an illness called Duchenne syndrome, which causes rapid muscle degeneration. He was close to death and confined to a bed with no ability to walk, and was still ineligible to be added to a waiting list for a heart transplant. 

This is when Dr. Antonio Amodeo, a pediatric cardiac surgeon, decided to perform a heart transplant on the boy. But unlike previous artificial heart transplant's, this would not just be a temporary fix. This operation would serve as a permanent solution in hopes of giving the boy a "normal life." The procedure was also unlike any other artificial heart operation because this was the first time it was performed on a child. 

"The device is an electronically activated hydraulic pump and is entirely located inside the thorax, in order to reduce the risk of infection," said Dr. Amodeo. "It is powered through a plug positioned behind the left ear and connected to the battery that the patient holds on a belt and is charged during the night like a mobile phone."

The artificial heart is approximately 4cm long and weighs about 14 ounces. After 10 hours of operating last week, the boy is still in intensive care, but woke up after surgery and is doing fine. 

"Despite the length of the operation, he woke up fine and when his mother called, he said he could not talk as he was brushing his teeth," said Dr. Amodeo. 

The boy is expected to be in intensive care for two more weeks, and with his new artificial heart permanently implanted, he has gained another 20-25 years of life. 

"This is the first time such a device has been placed in a young child and should give him an improved quality of life even though he is suffering from Duchenne syndrome," said Dr. Amodeo. "The family was happy for the child to go through the surgery and have the artificial heart implanted as he was in a very bad way and was days away from dying.

"This surgery opens up new horizons as there are many children who need transplants, but the number of donors is very small and there are some who, like this patient, cannot be transplant candidates because of illness."

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RE: Super cool...
By Spivonious on 10/4/2010 10:37:45 AM , Rating: 3
His other muscles will still continue deteriorating until he can no longer move. It's nice that he could continue living for a while, but it will not be a "normal life".

RE: Super cool...
By skepticallizzie on 10/4/2010 1:58:54 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, that is exactly what will happen. and then when he goes into respiratory failure, they will also give him an artificial airway and put him on a vent. Then he will never die. He will be trapped in his body with an intact brain and intellect.
Yes, his life will never be "normal".
I love science, and just because we CAN do something to prolong life, it does not mean we SHOULD do it. Death is a natural part of the circle of life. We collectively tend to try to outsmart it, but in the end we all die.
(i have been a peds ICU nurse for a long time)

RE: Super cool...
By mac2j on 10/4/2010 8:32:47 PM , Rating: 3
Ugh I can't stand comments like this.

Wake up and smell the future.

Really ... you really think in 20-25 years Duchenne's won't be curable? Really?

FYI - it's already curable in animals with properly differentiated stem cells and with iPS cells. In another year he can probably get cured in China ... in another 10 he could get cured here.

This is what I often recommend to cancer patients now - do whatever you can to stay alive for a couple more years because the cures are coming.

RE: Super cool...
By Howard on 10/4/2010 8:49:46 PM , Rating: 3
So just because death is our tradition, we should never try to extend life?

RE: Super cool...
By JediJeb on 10/5/2010 2:09:59 PM , Rating: 2
He will be trapped in his body with an intact brain and intellect. Yes, his life will never be "normal".

People may think this is a horrible life, but I imagine Stephen Hawkings might have something to say about that.

Give this young person another 20-25 years and they may just be the person who finds the cure for their own illness and that of many others. Sometimes a mind can do wonderful things when it isn't encumbered by thinking about doing the things most of us call living.

"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, after being asked what to do with Apple Computer in 1997

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