For as long as medical history dates, there have been patients suffering from heart disease. As the number of suffering continues to increase, the number of donor hearts remains limited. Because of this, not all patients will receive a matching donor heart in time.
To absolve this dire need, doctors, surgeons, inventors, and medical researchers alike went hard to work over decades to develop an alternative. Early versions of artificial hearts were tested and improved, leading to what we know today as the Total Artificial Heart (TAH).
In 1947, Dr. Willem Johan Kolff officially began research to develop an artificial heart. Within three years, Dr. Kolff emigrates to the U.S. to start work as a research assistant at Cleveland Clinic.
Ten years after beginning his research, Dr. Kolff, along with the help of Dr. Tetsuzo Akutsu, conducts a series of animal implants with the artificial heart. Their first subject, a dog, survives for approximately 90 minutes.
In 1963, Paul Winchell received the first artificial heart patent, aided by Dr. Henry Heimlich, who later invented Heimlich maneuver. Over the following years, Winchell signs over his patent rights to Dr. Kolff.
By 1967, Dr. Kolff left the Cleveland Clinic to start the Division of Artificial Organs at the University of Utah. Along with engineer Thomas Kessler and surgeon Dr. Clifford Kwan-Gett, Dr. Kolff continued developing the artificial heart. In that same year, the first successful heart transplant is performed in Cape Town, South Africa by Dr. Christiaan Barnard.
Two years later, Dr. Denton Cooley successfully implanted the first artificial heart in a human subject. The patient survived on the artificial heart for 64 hours before transplantation of a donor heart.
Over the next 12 years, Dr. Kolff worked with renowned surgeons and doctors, leading the transition from animal implants to human implants. In 1981, the calf “Alfred Lord Tennyson” lives for 268 days on the Jarvik 5 TAH. Due to this success, Dr. Kolff submits a request to the FDA to implant a TAH into a human subject.
On December 2nd, 1982, the Jarvik 7 is implanted into 61-year-old dentist Dr. Barney Clark, who lives for 112 days. In 1984, William Schroeder became the second human recipient of the Jarvik 7. He survived 620 days before dying of a lung infection. At this time, this was the longest time anyone had survived with an artificial heart.
August of 1985, Dr. Copeland becomes the first surgeon to successfully use the Jarvik 7 as a bridge to human heart transplant.
In 2004, the total artificial heart, now titled the CardioWest Total Artificial Heart receives FDA approval, becoming the first TAH to do so.