The world’s first recipient of an artificial heart made by Carmat of France died on Sunday after living 75 days with the device.
But those days were a reprieve for Georges Pompidou, who at 76 years old was suffering from terminal heart failure — his decrepit heart getting weaker — with only a few weeks or days to live. The bioprosthetic device is intended to replace a natural heart for as long as five years, pumping away as the recipient awaits a donor. Side-effects normally associated with transplant surgery are minimal, too.
"Carmat wishes to pay tribute to the courage and the pioneering role of this patient and his family, as well as the medical team's dedication," a company spokeswoman told Reuters.
The company says it’s too early to tell whether the artificial heart will soon be viable for the market, but has enrolled three additional patients to receive the devices. Should the patients survive for at least a month after the implant, the company would move toward the next phase with 20 patients with severe heart failure.
"The doctors directly involved in the post-surgical care wish to highlight the value of the lessons learned from this first clinical trial, with regard to the selection of the patient, his surveillance, the prevention and treatment of difficulties encountered," the hospital spokeswoman said.
Now, researchers will analyze the medical and technical data gathered in the trial, with the hope of soon moving forward. The manufacturer says the market for the artificial heart may be worth some $22 billion in the United States and Europe. More than 100,000 patients on both continents may potentially benefit from the artificial heart.
However, Carmat has some competition from a pair of privately held American companies, SynCardia Systems, and Abiomed. Syncardia’s device has been approved by regulators in both the U.S. and EU, with 1,200 recipients to date. One patient lived four years with Syncardia’s heart.