On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the world's first heart transplantation, Berlin Heart welcomed representatives of the EU, the German Heart Center Berlin, and heart transplant patients to a conversation regarding the importance of ventricular assist devices in transplantation medicine.
On December 3, 1967, Christiaan Barnard performed the first successful transplantation of a heart, in the South African capital of Cape Town. The recipient survived 18 days. To this day, heart transplantations are considered the treatment of choice for severe heart failure. "With no other therapy can I positively change the life of a patient in such a drastic manner", states Prof. Dr. Christoph Knosalla, Transplantation Expert and Senior Physician at the Heart Center Berlin.
Approximately three million persons worldwide suffer from end-stage heart failure. In contrast, approximately 4,000 donor hearts become available every year. The lack of donor hearts results in severely ill patients often waiting one year or longer for a donor heart. In order to bridge the waiting time, many patients are supported with a ventricular assist device.
This is the case for 6-year-old Recep. In 2011, he came into the world with a heart defect. At the age of two he was implanted with Berlin Heart's EXCOR® Pediatric ventricular assist device at the Heart Center Berlin. The system supported his heart for two and a half years until he received a donor heart. Like Recep, an increasing number of patients also requires mechanical circulatory support. "In the 1990s, only 20 percent of children required such support", states Dr. Oliver Miera, Senior Physician at the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit of the German Heart Center Berlin. Nowadays, 75 percent of children can only survive the waiting time with heart support.
Thus, ventricular assist devices were originally conceived to bridge the time until transplantation. Due to the lack of donor hearts, however, they have become a long-term solution for many patients. Some patients have been supplied with a Berlin Heart system for more than ten years. Despite all advances in heart failure therapy, there is still a need for improvement: "We are working on making our systems ever smaller and more efficient" says Berlin Heart Managing Director Dr. Ares K. Menon.
Berlin Heart invests a large part of its revenue in Research. When developing technical solutions for heart failure therapy, this medical technology company also benefits from funding support from the EU. "Through targeted structural support in the health care sector, the applied research is strengthened and innovations are spurred on", explains Laura Bethke, Representative of the European Commission in Germany.
About Berlin Heart
Berlin Heart GmbH is the only company in the world that develops, manufactures and sells both implantable and external ventricular assist devices for patients of all ages and sizes with heart diseases. The INCOR®, EXCOR® Adult und EXCOR® Pediatric systems provide short-term and long-term support for the cardiac function and are therefore a life-saving therapy option for the patients. Berlin Heart also offers clinical and technical support around the clock.