A father-of-one has become the first person in Britain to check out of hospital and return home after being fitted with an artificial plastic heart.
Matthew Green, 40, was left in a critical condition at Papworth Hospital, Cambs., after he suffered heart disease and no suitable donors could be found on the transplant list.
Surgeons could not wait any longer for a donor so they fitted Matthew with a Total Artificial Heart – a titanium and plastic device weighing just 160 grams.
The implant, which is a little larger than a human heart, is powered by a portable console and delivers blood through a pneumatic pump carried in a rucksack.
Yesterday Matthew told how he feels ”very lucky” after being discharged from his hospital only seven weeks after the ground breaking £100,000 operation.
He said: ”I feel fantastic. I felt so ill before so now to be feeling so well and full of life is great. I feel very lucky.
”Walking around is OK. It’s quite a large device and I’m still recovering from my operation so not all of the bones in my chest have healed yet.
”I struggle to carry it but I can walk around fine but I needed a trolley to start with. It’s in a back pack or a small bag and its about 7kg, it’s a fairly small device.
”It feels very different, before the operation my heart beat was very weak and I could hardly feel my pulse.
”Now it’s a very strong heart beat and it’s set for about 130 beats a minute. If I cough a little loudly it gives a little alarm.
”Two years ago I was cycling nine miles to work and nine miles back every day but by the time I was admitted to hospital I was struggling to walk even a few yards.
”I am really excited about going home and just being able to do the everyday things that I haven’t been able to do for such a long time – such as playing in the garden with my son and cooking a meal for my family.”
Matthew suffered from Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy (ARVC), a heart muscle disease that results in arrhythmia, heart failure, and sudden death.
The pharmaceutical consultant, who lives in London with his wife Gill and five-year-old son Dylan, was left in a critical condition after his health deteriorated.
The only option available to save Matthew’s life was a heart transplant but no suitable donors could be found on the transplant list.
Instead surgeons opted to fit him with a temporary artificial heart, given to patients dying from end-stage biventricular heart failure while they wait for a human donor.
Similar to a heart transplant, the device replaces both failing ventricles and the native heart valves.
It provides blood flow of up to 9.5 litres per minute throughout the body, eliminating the symptoms and effects of severe heart failure.
The artificial heart is powered by a battery with a compressed air piston pump and a flexible blood sack is stored in a rucksack to pump blood around the body.
Parts of the device have a 50-year working life but patients are expected to need the plastic heart for around three years.
Usually patients fitted with artificial hearts are too ill to return home while they wait for a human donor to become available.
However, the ground-breaking surgery has been so successful that Matthew can now go home to his family while he waits for a a heart transplant.
Ahead of the surgery the transplant team led by Consultant Cardiothoracic surgeon and Director of the Transplant Service Steven Tsui were sent to Paris for training.
They were assisted by Dr. Latif Arusoglu, an expert Total Artificial Heart surgeon from Bad Oeynhausen, Germany.
The six-hour operation was carried out by surgeons at Papworth Hospital on June 9.
Mr Tsui said: ”The beauty of this device is the simplicity of the components which make it so durable and failure rate is very low.
”If there’s a problem we can easily switch to a back-up console. Every patient provided with one or sometimes two back up consoles.
”Primarily heart transplant is still the best if available and if there is sufficient time to find a suitable donor heart.
”But there are times when patients’ conditions deteriorate rapidly and we are worried they are going to run out of time before we find a suitable donor heart.
”Matthew’s condition was deteriorating rapidly and we discussed with him the possibility of receiving this device, because without it he may not have survived the wait until a suitable donor heart could be found for him.
”The operation went extremely well and Matthew has made an excellent recovery.
”I expect him to go home very soon, being able to do a lot more than before the operation with a vastly improved quality of life, until we can find a suitable donor heart for him to have a heart transplant.”
The batteries that power the artificial heart last several hours but an adaptor can be plugged into the mains when the patient is at home.
The consoles need regular updates and annual maintenance costs the hospital £20,000 a year.
The device uses the Freedom portable driver to power his Total Artificial Heart.
Weighing 13.5 pounds, the driver is the world’s first wearable portable driver designed to power SynCardia’s Total Artificial Heart both inside and outside the hospital.
It is designed to be worn by the patient in the Freedom Backpack or Shoulder Bag.
The Total Artificial Heart replaces both the left and right heart ventricles and takes over the pumping of blood throughout the whole body.
It is unlike a left ventricular assist device (LVAD), which only helps the failing left ventricle.
The Total Artificial Heart is a modern version of the Jarvik-7 artificial heart of the 1980s and is manufactured by SynCardia.
Papworth Hospital is the only centre in the United Kingdom currently certified to implant the plastic heart.
Worldwide there have been more than 900 implants of the Total Artificial Heart, accounting for more than 210 patient years of life.