Patients with one-sided heart failure may soon be helped by a robotic cardiac assist device, developed by scientists at Boston’s Children Hospital. The device combines soft probes with a rigid brace that penetrates into the heart’s ventricular system and gently pumps only to the failing side of the heart. The healthy side of the heart remains undisturbed.
The robot helps the failing side of the heart by gently squeezing and pumping from the outside. Unlike conventional ventricular devices, this robot does not come into contact with the blood, thus reducing the clotting risk.
Robotic Pump: How It Works
Although other existing mechanical pumps can help propel blood through the heart, they are designed so that blood must run through the pump itself, exposing blood to its unnatural surface.
Running blood through a pump always requires a patient to be placed, permanently on anticoagulant medication to prevent blood clotting. It can be very difficult to keep the right balance of medication, especially in pediatric patients, who are therefore at risk of excessive bleeding or dangerous clotting.
Heart Failure: Robot To The Rescue
Altogether, the system involves a septal anchor, a bracing bar, and sealing sleeve that pass through the ventricle wall, and a frame embedded with soft actuators that is mounted around the ventricle. The researchers designed two distinct versions of the system for the right and left ventricle.
In animal studies, the soft robotic system contributed significantly to the diseased ventricle’s ability to eject blood. The system’s effectiveness may be due in part to its integration with the septum, which plays a key role in the heart’s ability to pump blood.
The system also made significant improvement in its ability to draw blood into the ventricles, which is just as important as the heart’s ability to pump it out.
As the actuators relax, specially-designed elastic bands help return the heart’s wall to its original position, filling the chamber sufficiently with blood.
Currently, this robotic device is undergoing design modifications that are suitable for use in humans. In addition, they are also conducting longer duration tests in animals to gauge the robot’s impact on the heart over longer time periods.