An artificial heart is a device that replaces the heart. Artificial hearts are typically used to bridge the time to heart transplantation, or to permanently replace the heart in case heart transplantation is impossible.
Since the late nineteenth century, scientists have tried to develop a mechanical device that could restore oxygen to the blood and remove excessive carbon dioxide, as well as a pump to temporarily supplant heart action.
Perhaps the most famous scientist is Dr. Robert Jarvik, who invented in 1982 an artificial heart called the Jarvik-7. This device, made from aluminum and plastic, replaced the two lower chambers of the natural heart and used two rubber diaphragms for the pumping action. An external compressor the size of a refrigerator kept the artificial heart beating. Barney Clark was the first patient to receive this heart. He survived 112 days before physical complications caused by the implant took his life. In 1986, William Schroeder became the second Jarvik-7 recipient, surviving for about 20 months.
The medical community realized that a completely implantable heart could avoid the mobility and infection problems caused by the Jarvik-7. In 1988, the National Institutes of Health began funding development of such hearts and was supporting such a program in 1991 totaling $6 million. Three years later, an electric and battery-powered implantable LVAD became available. In 1999, Charlie Chappis became the first patient ever released from a hospital with such a device.
In August 2006, an artificial heart was implanted into a 15-year-old girl at the Stollery Children's Hospital in Edmonton, Alberta. It was intended to act as a temporary fixture until a donor heart could be found. Instead, the artificial heart (called a Berlin Heart) allowed for natural processes to occur and