Heart pumps for children pass milestone
Mark Steele, 4, is hooked to a large machine in a tiny room at Children's Hospital.
Blood-filled tubes snake from his chest to the device, which pumps blood through his body to keep him alive while he waits for a donor heart to replace his failing one.
The boy -- who dreams of being a rock star and thinks Sean Connery was the best James Bond -- can't return to his St. Albans, W.Va., home while relying on the machine.
Doctors at Children's announced Thursday that two pediatric heart pumps they helped invent reached important milestones that could enable children like Steele to await transplants at home.
"The idea is that (the devices) are simple and self-contained," said Dr. Peter Wearden, director of the Pediatric Mechanical Cardiopulmonary Support unit at the Oakland hospital. "Our goal is that they would go home with the patients."
The National Institutes of Health gave Children's and medical device manufacturer Levitronix $2.3 million to finish developing and start clinical trials for PediVAS, a small, external heart pump designed for infants and small children. It relies on magnets to spin a small propeller that moves blood from the heart to the rest of the body, giving children up to an additional month for a donor heart.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a larger version of the device for use in adults and bigger adolescents.
"Device makers didn't want to make these devices for kids because there are only maybe 300 to 600 kids a year that would need them," Wearden said.
In order to give pediatric heart patients even more time and make the heart pumps less bulky, Wearden partnered with professors at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh to create PediaFlow. The walnut-sized device would be implanted beneath the child's skin, with only a wire coming out to a Walkman-sized battery pack.
Like PediVAS, PediaFlow uses magnets to spin an enclosed propeller, but it has the potential to keep a child alive for up to six months.
Yesterday, Wearden said he was in the last year of a $4.5 million federal contract to develop the internal pump and would soon apply for another contract that would allow him to begin clinical trials.
"I think sometimes just the environment of the hospital makes it more emotional and stressful," said Rhonda Thornton, Mark's Steele's aunt. She spends weekdays at Children's while Mark's parents work.
"If he could just be home," she said, while digging through a book bag for a Batman action figure. "He'd be so much more comfortable."
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Robert Morris drops to 0-5 after overtime loss to New Mexico St.
- Southmoreland wrestling team takes old-school approach
- Pittsburgh man charged with 56 counts after high-speed chase over weekend
- Sounds of Christmas coming to Fay-West region
- Pittsburgh Tribune-Review athletes of the week: Sewickley Academy’s Jackson O’Neill, USC’s Emma Hasco
- McIntyre students hope Buddy Bench is beneficial to all
- Steelers kicker Boswell puts best foot forward
- Steelers notebook: Tomlin not grooming successor to RB Williams
- Burrell school officials update education goals
- HObo Model Railroad Club display back in Connellsville
- Congressman visits Kistaco Farm in Kiski Township