Child cured of cardiomyopathy after using artificial heart for 8 months

Shim Hyun-tai  Published 2020.05.11  17:43  Updated 2020.05.11 17:43


The Severance Hospital has recently succeeded in transplanting the heart of a brain-dead patient to a 5-year-old boy with cardiomyopathy after maintaining his cardiac function for eight months with a left ventricular assist device (LVAD).

The child, who resorted to the artificial heart for the longest period in Korea, left the hospital fully recovered on May 4, the hospital said on Monday.

A 5-year-old boy, who was cured of cardiomyopathy after resorting to an artificial heart for eight months, the longest in Korea, shares a moment with medical staff at the Severance Hotel before leaving it on Monday.

The boy had been receiving therapy for two years to treat dilated cardiomyopathy, which is one of the rare refractory diseases caused by weakened myocardium and deprives the cardiomobility. However, he had to receive extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) as his cardiac function worsened due to the underlying disease and severe mitral valve insufficiency since August last year.

Professors Kim Ah-young and Shin Yoo-rim of Severance Hospital implanted an LVAD after ECMO treatment to save the patient’s remaining heart function.

LVAD, also called an artificial heart, is a device that replaces the left ventricular function in the heart and sustains the patient's life and condition until the transplanting the heart of a brain-dead.

With the successful transplantation, he showed a steady recovery of body weight and growth. Occasionally, patients who undergo LVAD transplants recover naturally. In most cases, however, they require a heart transplant depending on the nature of congenital dilated cardiomyopathy.

In the case of the 5-year-old, transplanting LVAD was the only way to treat him until the heart was ready. Unlike other organs, however, the available hearts from patients with brain death are scarce in Korea and cannot be easily secured. The intensive care by medical staff is a must as the patients can develop nervous system complications and device failure.

"His heart function was weakened, so the transplant of a brain-dead’s heart was the only treatment for the young patient, who had endured well until the transplant," Professor Shin said.

Professor Kim said, “There were various risk factors associated with the two major surgeries, but the medical team drew positive results through extensive efforts to keep the boy healthy and prevent viral infection.”

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