5 Important Facts About the Heart-Lung Machine

By Adam Pick on September 12, 2017

For most patients needing heart valve surgery, a heart-lung machine is typically used during the operation. As you may know, the heart-lung machine enables the surgeon to stop and cool the heart so the valve can be fixed while the heart is not beating.

 

 

A Quick History of the Heart-Lung Machine

In the past, I’ve shared a little bit about heart-lung machines. That said, I thought you might like to learn more about the history and the development of this very interesting device.

  • The first prototype of the heart-lung machine was constructed all the way back in 1885 by an Austrian-German Physiologist by the name of Maximillian von Frey.
  • The first working heart-lung machine was tested during experiments on canines in the 1920s by Soviet scientist, Sergei Brukhonenko.
  • The first successful open heart procedure – on a human – using a heart-lung machine was performed on May 6, 1953 by John Gibbon at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia. That operation was a repair of an atrial septal defect.

The heart-lung machine goes by a couple different names including “cardiopulmonary bypass” and the “pump”.

 

How Does the Heart-Lung Machine Work?

Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to observe many operations that use a heart-lung machine.

Needless to say, it’s amazing to see the surgeon and the medical team leverage this device throughout a heart valve operation. So you know, the person responsible for the heart-lung machine is known as the “perfusionist”. He or she is responsible for the management of the patient’s circulatory and respiratory activity during a procedure.

To help you learn more about the heart-lung machine, I thought you might like to see this video that I just found. In the video, Dr. Oz discusses the use of the heart-lung machine. While the procedure featured in the video is a coronary bypass artery graft (CABG), I think the explanations here apply to heart valve procedures as well.

 

 

If you’re curious to see how the heart-lung machine works in 3 steps, I thought you might also like to see this step-by-step diagram.

 

 

Do All Valve Procedures Use the Heart-Lung Machine?

So you know… Not all heart valve procedures require a heart-lung machine.

Today, there are several transcatheter procedures (TAVR, MitraClip) that are commercially available, or in clinical trials, that do not use a heart-lung machine. Please note, however, these procedures are currently reserved for patients who are at intermediate risk, high risk or inoperable for surgery.

The fact that the heart-lung machine is not used in catheter-based procedures is often referenced as a potential, therapeutic benefit for the patient. As you may know, there are some potential complications that may occur from the use of bypass including post-perfusion syndrome, more commonly referred to as “pumphead”.

That being said, there are potential complications with most procedures. Fyi, my personal experience with the heart-lung machine resulted in no complications.  And, many, many, many, many patients in this community had successful open heart procedures that used the heart-lung machine… They’re doing fine too!

I hope this helped you learn more about the heart-lung machine!

Keep on tickin!
Adam


Written by Adam Pick
- Patient & Website Founder

Adam Pick is a heart valve patient and author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery. In 2006, Adam founded HeartValveSurgery.com to educate and empower patients. This award-winning website has helped over 10 million people fight heart valve disease. Adam has been featured by the American Heart Association and The Wall Street Journal.

Adam Pick is a heart valve patient and author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery. In 2006, Adam founded HeartValveSurgery.com to educate and empower patients. This award-winning website has helped over 10 million people fight heart valve disease. Adam has been featured by the American Heart Association and The Wall Street Journal.

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