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!