HeartMate II: the pulse-free artificial heart
Since the FDA gave the big thumbs up to a fully implantable artificial heart earlier this month, cardiac surgeon "Bud" Frazier and his team at the Texas Heart Institute aren't wasting any time in developing what they hope will be a fully-functioning, pulse-free artificial heart. The "continuous flow pump" channels deoxygenated blood through the entire body on a non-stop basis, and over two years of testing in cattle, has resulted in lengthening the lives of the previously terminal cud chewers. Replacement hearts that are currently available are too large to fit into folks without "large chest cavities" (including most women), and due to the vast quantity of moving parts, aren't guaranteed to function for an extended period of time. Frazier's alternative, however, is about the size of "an adult thumb," consists of a single moving part (the rotor), and has been designed to keep the blood moving for ten or more years. The HeartMate II can even respond dynamically to the needs of the body, so more blood is circulated when busting a move, and less is pumped when kicking back for a soothing game of competitive relaxation. While the long-term consequences of living a pulseless life are still under debate, Frazier's group is hoping to move forward with development -- and apparently challenge medical personnel everywhere to find a new way to monitor those vital signs.
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