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Prosthetics

Heart Transplants

Heart disease is one of the most common killers of middle-aged men and women. Artificial heart valves are now commonly transplanted into living hearts to replace malfunctioning valves. However, this procedure only treats one type of heart malfunction. Many types of artificial heart have been tested, with the hope of replacing the entire organ with an electro-mechanical substitute. This technique attracted a great deal of publicity in the early 1980's, when a few patients received permanent mechanical replacement hearts. Unfortunately, these patients lived only a short time after receiving the transplants. Though research continues into smaller, more reliable devices that do not trigger rejection from the body's auto-immune system, they are still considered temporary expedients that allow a patient to remain alive until a suitable human heart is available for transplantation. Even then, artificial hearts and Vascular Aid Devices (VAD) are used in only the more desperate cases, since infection and rejection can cause further damage, which would reduce the chances of a successful human heart transplant, causing the patient to be removed from the transplant list.

A typical above-the-knee prosthesis. The flesh-colored foam cover is worn over the working prosthesis on the right. Courtesy of Gale Research.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Propagation to Quantum electrodynamics (QED)Prosthetics - Artificial Limbs, Effectiveness, Hip Replacement, Recovery, Knee Joint Replacement, Wrist And Finger Implants - Arthroplasty, Implanted prosthetic materials