What is a Berlin Heart?
The Berlin Heart ventricular assist device (VAD) is a mechanical cardiac support system for critically ill pediatric patients suffering from severe heart failure. The device comes in various sizes for a range of patients, including newborn babies. simply put, the system is a pneumatic pump run by a laptop computer . In some cases in larger children the pump can allow the patient, who was previously confined to bed and breathing machines, to move around and be involved in some of their regular activities.
How Does a Berlin Heart Work?
The driving unit drives air into and out of the Berlin Heart pump. As air is pulled out of the pump, the membrane separating the two sides of the pump is drawn back, pulling blood into the pump from the main pumping chamber of the child’s own heart. As air is pushed back into the pump, the membrane is pushed forward, pumping blood back into a main artery of the body. A Berlin Heart supporting the left side of the heart (LVAD), then the blood that is pumped out of the Berlin Heart goes into the aorta, the main artery which circulates blood all around the body. A Berlin Heart supporting the right side of the heart pumps blood into the pulmonary artery, which sends blood to the lungs to collect oxygen.
The Berlin Heart is intended to be used as a bridge to recovery or as a bridge to a heart transplant. It is not a permanent device and does have risks including bleeding and clot formation.
The device takes over the hearts work of pumping blood to the body and/or the lungs. Since it more efficiently supplies blood to the body,it allows organs to be adequately supplied with oxygenated blood and therefore organ recovery. With better body organ function, critically ill children become better heart transplant candidates and often recover much faster following transplant surgery.
In 2011, the FDA approved the use of the device in the pediatric population. The Berlin Heart offers families a new ray of hope. The Berlin Heart has given doctors and medical teams another valuable tool in addition to medical therapy in the treatment of children with severe heart failure.