Total Artificial Heart

The total artificial heart (TAH) is a mechanical device designed to replace the lower two chamber of the heart (ventricles) that pump blood to the lungs and then out to the body.

Who Is a Candidate?

Patients who have advanced heart failure of both ventricles or who are waiting for a heart transplant may be good candidates for a total artificial heart. Patients with a heart failure classification of American Heart Association (AHA) stage D, or New York Heart Association (NYHA) class IV, face a significantly higher mortality and the total artificial heart may serve a bridge to additional procedures or operate as a long-term alternative. Nearly 100,000 patients have advanced heart failure in the US.

How Does It Work?

To attach the total artificial heart, the bottom ventricles are removed and the device is attached to the top two chambers of the heart called the atria. Most designs require that some of the aorta, pulmonary arteries and portions of the atrial tissue be removed for placement. Between the atria and the ventricles are mechanical valves that replace the heart’s old valves and keep blood from flowing in the wrong direction.

Types of Artificial Heart

There are a few different total artificial heart designs on the market and your doctor will determine which type is best for you. Some types of artificial hearts are attached to an outside power source with tubes that run out through the abdomen. Others types are self-contained with no tubes outside the body and are charged with a magnet through the skin.

Who Is Not a Candidate?

Patients who may not be candidates for TAH placement are those who do not have sufficient space in the chest for the device, or who cannot take anticoagulant therapy as required.  

Patient Story- Lester Walters

When Lester Walters' heart failed beyond the point where most advanced medicine and mechanical assistance could save him, UK HealthCare doctors went a step further — they removed his heart entirely and temporarily replaced it with an artificial heart while he waits to be listed for transplant. Read the patient story.