Program: Artificial Heart Technology

The main program was delivered by Dr. Walter Dembitsky, a cardiologist with a specialty in artificial heart technology. Dr. Dembitsky's presentation centered on artificial heart devices that assist the left ventricle with pumping blood output from the heart to the rest of the body.  These are called LVAD, Left Ventricle Assist Devices. The demand for such treatment is high.  About 10% of people over the age of 80 have heart failure. The question is whether these mechanical devices are better than a heart transplant.

Some of the early devices used a reciprocating pumping action.  These devices were failures since they wore themselves out within one year of service in a patient.  The devices that have proven successful are continuous motion pumping devices.  It was Dr. Dembitsky's view that these mechanical device could be more successful if they were administered in earlier stages of heart failure.   Often the receiving patient is on "Death's Door" when these devices are installed, only to postpone the inevitable for a short period. 

Dr. Dembitsky also talked about reviving cardiac arrest victims after a greater length of time after the heart attack with brain chilling techniques. The conclusions about mechanical devices compared to a heart transplant is that the mechanical device availability is not limited by the number of donors, and as technology advances the mechanical devices with become more viable, while the effectiveness of heart transplants will remain plateaued.