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Some Opt-Out Of Heart Transplants

February 26, 2010, 5:10 PM by Kelli Grant

Some Opt-Out Of Heart Transplants
It's hard to imagine how it would feel to be put on a waiting list for a heart transplant. It's even harder to imagine a patient choosing to take themselves off that waiting list and living to tell about it. But thanks to some remarkable technology, that's happening more often.

Right now, there are some 3,000 people waiting for a donor heart. But a new generation of heart pumps could work so well, the FDA may soon consider them an alternative to transplant.

Small pumps are now doing the work for hearts. Instead of beating, a small rotor keeps blood flowing constantly.  Batteries keep it running. It works so well, a recent national study shows seven out of 10 patients now survive at least a year with them. It's worked so well for some patients, they're off the donor list.

"It's almost the ultimate rehabilitative tool. It gave her the blood flow so we could have the nutrient exchange that she needed to recover. She's had this pump in for 3 and a half, almost four years now. And done beautifully," Dr. Benjamin Sun of Ohio State University Medical Center said.

If a heart is available, doctors still suggest that patients get a transplant.

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