Artificial Hearts Available at a Store Near You

A Massachusetts company has received federal approval to sell up to 4,000 artificial hearts a year.The Food and Drug Administration granted Abiomed a humanitarian exemption allowing it to sell the devices.An FDA spokeswoman said the actual number of AbioCor hearts implanted would likely be far smaller, perhaps 25 to 50 a year.

The devices would be used only in patients who are close to death and have no other treatment options. They’ve been tested in only 14 men so far.Of the 11 who survived the initial operation, one lived for 17 months, while the rest survived an average of five months.The devices differ from artificial heart pumps because they are fully contained within the chest, with no outside wires. The current device is too large for women, but Abiomed said it is developing a smaller version.

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