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More Than One Way to Help a Failing Heart

This week, medical history was made as the first fully self-contained artificial heart was implanted in a human, reports CBS News correspondent Lee Cowan.

While we may be years away from seeing such a device regularly used, there are other approaches to saving people on the verge of heart failure that are much closer to becoming reality -- and may be more practical.

Doctors are close to completing trials on a heart pump, also known as a left ventricular assist device (LVAD). Such devices have been used for years to keep patients alive temporarily while they wait for a human transplant. However, the current trials are aimed at getting FDA approval to use these heart pumps as a final, permanent replacement for people suffering end-stage heart failure.

There are several advantages to LVADs. Unlike the artificial heart, which involves removing the patient's own heart, the LVAD is implanted in the patient's abdomen. It is connected to the existing heart and used to bypass the left ventricle, which is the side of the heart that returns oxygenated blood to the body.

In the majority of patients suffering from heart failure, it is only the left ventricle that is faulty. Experts say, however, that while heart pumps may be more appropriate for more people, especially in the short term, there is room in the battle against heart failure for both heart pumps and completely self-contained artificial hearts like the AbioCor.

For instance, a person who received a human transplanted heart that is failing would obviously be a good candidate for a man-made heart.
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