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Plastic heart gives hope to kids
(China Daily)
Updated: 2006-02-27 05:20

LONDON: A pioneering new plastic heart is enabling doctors to keep alive critically ill children while they wait for heart transplants.

Surgeons at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London have managed to stabilize three young children by using the Berlin Heart, a device which keeps the blood pumping around the body when the child's own organ is too weak to work properly.

So far, there has been little doctors can do to support a child with severe heart failure once they deteriorate.

Jodie Lansdale told how her daughter, Claudia, was helped by the device as she waited for a heart to be donated. Claudia had been a healthy child, but at 13 months old she was diagnozed as having dilated cardiomyopathy.

This is a condition of the heart muscle where the heart becomes enlarged and pumps blood less well.

Claudia was put on different medicines but started to deteriorate. Her parents were told she might need to go to Great Ormond Street and receive intensive care.

"But we didn't know how long we would have until a donor organ became available because very few people who have lost a child decide to donate their heart."

Surgeon Carin Van Doorn told the parents that there was a new device which might help Claudia, but that she would be only the second person to go on it. In November, Claudia underwent a six-hour operation when the pump was fitted, taking over the function of her heart's left chamber. The device was attached by tubes to the heart but remained outside the body. "The transformation was astonishing," said Lansdale. "Claudia went from being very weak to being able to sit up and move around. It was marvellous to see the change."

A child's heart became available 27 days after the operation and Claudia received a transplant. "We are just so grateful to the donor's family for allowing our daughter to live," said Lansdale.

(China Daily 02/27/2006 page1)

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