Mechanical Heart Devices Research

Berlin Heart Offers Hope

A Mechanical Heart Designed Specifically for Children

Seattle Children's was one of the original 10 centers in North America chosen to take part in a national Food and Drug Administration (FDA) trial testing the Berlin Heart, a mechanical heart designed for children in heart failure awaiting a heart transplant.

The Berlin Heart, produced in Germany, is a ventricular assist device (VAD). It is similar to adult VADs but is small enough to fit in your hand and is designed for use in children. The Berlin Heart sits outside the body and is connected to tubes that are connected directly to the heart. It is controlled by a computer and takes over the job of pumping blood so the heart can rest while waiting for a donor heart.

Until the invention of the Berlin Heart, the only option for children under 5 years of age with heart failure was extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), a temporary form of mechanical support of heart and lung function. ECMO requires that the child be sedated and paralyzed with medicine in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

Children with the Berlin Heart can wake up and leave the ICU - they can go to the playroom and even attend school in the hospital.

Since February 2007, nine patients have received the Berlin Heart at Seattle Children's and gone on to have successful heart transplants. Approved by the FDA in December 2011, the Berlin Heart is the first VAD approved specifically for use in children.