World’s Smallest Artificial Heart Keeps Baby Alive

July 12, 2012

Unlocking Word Meanings
Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

1. artificial (adj.) 
[ahr-tuh-fish-uhl] – made by humans and not by nature
Example: The man who lost his leg in an accident was given an artificial leg.

2. pump (v.) [puhmp] – to push or move fluids or air forward along a passageway
Example: The heart pumps blood to the rest of the body.

3. infected (adj.) [in-fekt-id] – dirty, filled with small living things (such as bacteria or viruses) that can cause sickness
Example:  Please clean your wound with cotton and alcohol so that it will not become infected.

4. operate (v.) [op-uh-reyt] – to cut open a person’s body in order to treat or repair some damage inside the body
Example: The doctors found a tumor on the patient’s stomach and decided to operate on him to remove it.

5. transplant (n.) [trans-plant, -plahnt] – the process of moving one organ from one body to another body
Example: The young lady had a heart transplant to replace her weak heart.

Read the text below.
A 16-month-old baby boy in a hospital in Italy was saved after doctors replaced his failing heart with the world’s smallest artificial heart.

The infant was suffering from a heart disease called dilated myocardiopathy, a thickening of the heart muscles that weakens the heart and reduces its ability to pump blood.

Doctors, at first, kept the baby alive by attaching a mechanical pump to his natural heart. However, the mechanical pump caused some tissue to become infected and had to be taken out. The doctors then decided to try the artificial heart.

The tiny artificial heart used by the Italian doctors was made by an American doctor named Robert Jarvik. It had only been tested on animals before.

Made of titanium, the tiny heart can pump 1.5 liters of blood in one minute. It also only weighs 11 grams. In comparison, an adult-sized artificial heart weighs around 900 grams.

Antonio Amadeo, one of the surgeons who operated on the sick infant, described the operation as easy. He said the only concern of the medical team was that the baby had already undergone so many operations.

The medical team also grew emotionally attached to the infant, whom they had cared for every day since he was just a month old. To the team, the baby was like a family member.

The artificial heart worked for 13 days until the baby finally received a heart transplant. Dr. Amadeo believes that someday people can use artificial hearts permanently and will no longer wait for donor hearts.

Viewpoint Discussion
Enjoy a discussion with your tutor. 

Discussion A

·         What are possible disadvantages of having an artificial organ like an artificial heart?
·         Do you think that artificial hearts can someday completely replace the natural human heart? Please explain your answer.

Discussion B

·         Would you be willing to undergo a new medical procedure that has never been done on humans before? Why or why not?
·         Do you think this will help people live longer or have better lives in the future because of medical technology? Please explain your answer.


July 12, 2012