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Who Invented the Life-Saving Artificial Heart?

Discover the Genius Behind the Life-Saving Artificial Heart

Who Invented the Life-Saving Artificial Heart?

The Invention of the Artificial Heart

Background Information

The heart is one of the most vital organs in the human body, responsible for pumping blood throughout our system. Unfortunately, millions of people die each year from various heart diseases. The majority of these deaths are caused by heart failure, where the heart simply stops working. Due to this need for a solution, scientists and doctors alike have been searching for a way to replace the heart in the event of organ failure.Heart transplants were first successfully performed in the 1960s. However, the demand for donor hearts quickly surpassed the supply, highlighting a need for an artificial heart. This technology would not only reduce the waiting time for patients but would hopefully be more reliable than a donor heart and last much longer.

The Initial Attempts

The first attempts at creating an artificial heart can be traced back to the 1950s when researchers began experimenting with temporary pumps to keep patients alive during heart surgeries. However, these pumps were not meant to replace the heart, but rather to assist it.Dr. Paul Winchell, a well-known American ventriloquist and inventor, patented the first artificial heart in 1961. The device was meant to be used for people who needed heart surgery, but it was never implanted in humans.In 1969, Denton Cooley implanted an artificial heart in a patient named Haskell Karp. The heart, called the Liotta-Cooley artificial heart, was made of plastic and had metal valves. Unfortunately, Karp died after just a few hours due to kidney failure. Further attempts were made but were met with little success.Dr. Robert K. Jarvik also made significant contributions to the development of the artificial heart. In 1982, the Jarvik-7 was implanted into Barney Clark, the first successful permanent artificial heart implantation. However, Clark only lived for 112 days after the implantation.Researchers faced major challenges due to the complex structure and function of the human heart. They had to find a way to replicate the heart's pumping action and ensure that the device would not cause clotting or infection.

The First Successful Implantation

The first successful artificial heart implantation was performed in 1982 by a team of doctors at the University of Utah. The device was designed by Dr. Robert K. Jarvik and was known as the Jarvik-7. The heart was made of plastic and aluminum, weighed 3.5 pounds and was powered by an external console.The patient, 61-year-old dentist Barney Clark, had only a few weeks to live due to severe heart disease. Clark survived for 112 days after the implantation until he died due to multi-organ failure.Although the Jarvik-7 was not a long-term solution, it revolutionized the field of heart medicine. For the first time, doctors were able to keep a human being alive with an artificial heart. This breakthrough opened up new possibilities for scientists and inspired many to continue in the search for a permanent solution.Since then, many advancements have been made. Today, the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart is the only FDA-approved artificial heart available for patients with biventricular heart failure. It has been used in over 1,900 implants worldwide and has saved many lives.


The invention of the artificial heart has revolutionized the way we approach heart medicine. Although the technology is still evolving, it has already saved countless lives and improved the quality of life for many patients. The search for a permanent solution for heart disease is still ongoing, and we can hope that future advancements will continue to improve the lives of people affected by heart failure.

Artificial Heart Advancements

The quest to create an artificial heart has been a challenging one, requiring collaboration between different sectors. The invention of an artificial heart is a milestone for modern medicine. A person who suffers from heart-related diseases often has to rely on a heart transplant, but an artificial heart can potentially save their life. The development of an artificial heart is a collaborative effort between government, institutions, and private companies.

Collaborative Efforts

The invention of the artificial heart is not an overnight success but rather the fruit of an enduring partnership between different individuals, institutions, and private companies. The government has played a significant role in supporting research and development. In 1964, the United States National Heart Institute provided funding for Dr. Paul Winchell, who developed the first artificial heart prototype. This marked the beginning of government funding of artificial heart invention.

Private companies have also been vital in developing artificial heart technology. The first successful artificial heart implantation came in 1982. It was the work of Dr. Robert Jarvik, a private inventor who worked for more than a decade to perfect the artificial heart. The technology that he developed laid the foundation for the development of more advanced artificial hearts.

Modern Artificial Hearts

Today, there are several different kinds of artificial hearts. Some operate by using continuous flow, while others utilize pulses. Some are made of animal tissue and some entirely of synthetic materials. They range from small devices that can be installed entirely within the chest to larger systems that require external components and power sources.

Continuous flow pumps, which are the most common type of artificial heart, operate using a propeller that directs blood flow throughout the body. These pumps have a higher success rate, have compact sizes, and do not require extra–corporeal connection.

The pulsatile flow pump, on the other hand, uses mechanical valves that provide a pulse–like action that is more like a natural heartbeat. While this type is less common and has some complications, it is mainly used for transplant recipients or patients who anticipate receiving a transplant.

Future Potential

With advancements in science and technology, continued research and development in artificial heart technology hold immense promise. The current generation of artificial hearts have a limited lifespan and can be prone to significant risks such as blood clots. Researchers are working on developing an artificial heart that can last for a more extended period, be more integrated into the human body, and pose less of a risk of complications.

One promising area of research is the use of robotics and nanotechnology to develop next–generation artificial hearts. These hearts would be so tiny that they could be implanted within the human body without being noticeable. They could function efficiently for an extended period without causing any risk of damage or clots.

Challenges, such as durability, cost, and integration into the body, remain in creating these futuristic artificial hearts. However, experts believe that research and development in artificial heart technology will continue to bring us closer to a range of options that can replace a natural human heart if necessary.


It has taken over five decades of research and development for artificial hearts to transform from a fictional idea to a viable medical treatment option. Today, the different types of artificial hearts available indicate the impressive advancements in technology emerging every day. With promising research showing significant potential for futuristic artificial hearts in the future, the long quest to perfect a fully-functional artificial heart may well eventually be over.

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