Congestive heart failure, affecting about 5 million Americans, is the leading cause of death among Americans, accounting nearly 700,000 deaths. It is twice as many as stroke and seven times as many as breast cancer [Herold, 2001]. Sudden cardiac failure, a form of congestive heart failure in which the heart fails without advanced warning, causes about half of the total deaths. For the remaining half, congestive heart failure doesn’t mean that the heart completely stops working; it means that the heart muscle has deteriorated so much that the heart can no longer pump as much blood as the body needs.
However, a number of deaths are being prevented because of available heart transplant. But the number of prevented deaths is too small which accounts for only 2,000 patients [Goodman, 2005]. Medical transportation can send a heart donated on one side of the country to the other but the likelihood of receiving a heart is very small. There are simply too many patients and too few donors. What complicates matters further is that donors need to have the same blood type as the patient and thus, limits the chances of receiving a heart even more [Goodman, 2005].
Because of these high mortality statistics, much medical research has been conducted to combat the effects of congestive heart failure. Currently, the simplest method to counteract congestive heart failure is the use of medication. Medication can be effective if the heart is treated during the initial stages of the failure; however, if the heart is already in end stage congestive heart failure, medication is highly ineffective [Gorman and Park, 2001]. For people with a heart in the end stage of congestive heart failure, heart transplant surgery is the only biological alternative available.
During heart transplant surgery, the diseased heart is removed and replaced with a healthy heart that was donated by a person who had died for other reasons. However, due to the relatively small number of donor hearts that become available each year, many people with end stage congestive heart failure die while waiting to receive a donated heart. With a lack of viable biological options available to treat congestive heart failure, mechanical devices have received most of the medical research over the past 40 years.
One mechanical device that has assisted people with congestive heart failure is the ventricular assist device (VAD). The VAD is a small mechanical pump that is inserted into the ventricle and supplies a constant flow of blood in place of the ventricle’s pumping motion [Lemonick, 2000]. Although the VAD relieves the heart of much of its pumping duties, it does not cure the heart of its diseases, and therefore the heart continues to deteriorate and slowly fails.
As a result, the ultimate solution in solving health problems caused by congestive heart failure may be the total artificial heart which is a mechanical device that permanently replaces the entire heart instead of just assisting the diseased heart like the VAD does. Goodman, B. (November 2005). “Abiocor Artificial Heart”. Retrived December 19, 2007 from www. uweb. ucsb. edu/~beng/TechnicalReport. pdf Gorman, C. and Park, A. (July 2001). “The Artificial Heart, Revisited,” Time, vol, 158, issue 2, pp. 6. Retrieved March 3, 2008 from http://www. time. com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1000338,00. html Herold, R. (December 2001). “Design Improvements of Abiocor Artificial Heart Over Jarvik-7 Artificial Heart”. Retrieved December 18, 2007 from: homepages. cae. wisc. edu/~herold/Fall_2001/Formal_Report. pdf Lemonick, M. D. (May 2001). “Reviving Artificial Hearts,” Time, vol. 155, issue 19, pp. 65. Retrieved March 3, 2008 from http://www. time. com/time/magazine/article/0,8141,00853447,00. html