World's Smallest Artificial Heart Saves Baby's Life
11-gram pump kept Italian boy alive before transplant
By Rob Quinn, Newser Staff
Posted May 25, 2012 2:32 AM CDT
Updated May 25, 2012 2:54 AM CDT
The tiny device could handle a blood flow of 1.5 liters a minute.   (Bambino Gesu Hospital)

(Newser) – A 16-month-old Italian baby is alive today thanks to an artificial heart that only weighs about as much as two nickels. Doctors in a Rome hospital used the artificial heart, the world's smallest, to keep the boy alive for 13 days until a heart could be found for a transplant, reports Reuters. The titanium pump weighed just 11 grams, while a normal artificial heart weighs close to 900 grams. The operation was carried out last month, but only made public this week, and the boy has been doing well since.

Doctors say the boy, who was born with a heart muscle disease, became like family to them. "The patient was in our intensive care unit since one month of age. So he was a mascot for us, he was one of us,” the chief surgeon says. "Every day, every hour, for more than one year he was with us. So when we had a problem we couldn’t do anything more than our best." The team needed special permission from Italy's health ministry to install the tiny artificial heart, which had previously only been tested on animals.

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Showing 2 of 2 comments
FirstObserver
May 25, 2012 8:32 AM CDT
There should be a followup story about what this child faces for the rest of his life. Maybe a new heart using his own cells may eventually be grown, but in the mean time it's a life of anti rejection drugs and susceptibility to disease.
JackNelsonSteward
May 25, 2012 8:21 AM CDT
We are not far from true mechanical hearts that can be used as prosthetics.