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Advances keep hearts beating

By WANG XIAOYU | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2022-06-24 09:50

Development of artificial components provides better outcomes for patients

The rapid development of artificial hearts in China in recent years has greatly raised hopes for patients suffering acute heart failure, according to a report released on Thursday.

Sixteen hospitals on the Chinese mainland have performed nearly 100 surgeries involving implanting a left ventricular assist device-a type of artificial heart pump-into a patient's body to prolong their lives, said the 2021 Annual Report on Cardiovascular Health and Diseases in China.

Public records show that the first such surgery on the mainland was conducted in early 2001 in Beijing, using a device developed by a company from the United States.

As of the end of last year, the National Medical Products Administration had approved clinical trials for three domestic artificial hearts, the report added.

One leading candidate is the magnetic-levitation heart implant jointly developed by CH Biomedical, a company based in Suzhou, Jiangsu province, and the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences' Fuwai Hospital.

From January 2019 to December 2020, 33 patients with critical heart failure had received the mechanical replacement, according to Hu Shengshou, president of the hospital and a lead editor of the report.

Hu added that in January of this year, one of the world's smallest magnetic-levitation heart implants weighing only about 90 grams, known as Corheart 6, entered human trials.

"The development of this device is undoubtedly uplifting news for people with advanced heart failure in China," he said, adding that so far, 41 of the 50 planned trial surgeries had been initiated.

On June 2, the country's first surgery to put the device into a child patient was conducted at Fuwai Hospital.

The life of a 14-year-old, who was diagnosed with congenital heart disease shortly after birth, was hanging by a thread after he was struck by a severe cold.

Due to his frail condition and the risk of dying while waiting for a donated heart for transplant, doctors at Fuwai Hospital suggested using Corheart 6 to keep him alive.

The small size of the device is especially suitable for child patients. "The first successful surgery to fit the device on a young patient has greatly boosted our confidence (in its application in the future)," Hu said during an earlier interview, adding that long-term monitoring of the patient's status is needed.

The development of artificial hearts is one of the most complicated and expensive tasks in the medical field, covering a comprehensive range of expertise. The device, Hu said, is regarded as "the crown on top of a pagoda".

"Domestic development of the product has been fast in recent years, paralleling or even exceeding the world's leading products," he said.

According to the report, four million people were estimated to be living with heart failure in China. High blood pressure and coronary diseases are the main reason for the potentially deadly condition.

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