An artificial heart that was transplanted into a dentist who survived 620 days. The Jarvik-7, invented by Willem Kolff, the world's most prolific inventor of artificial organs, did not live up to its promise as a heart replacement
As noted by William DeVries, the surgeon who implanted the first Jarvik-7 hearts, journalists following a story constantly need new angles to continue to attract a readership.
Coverage of the original Jarvik-7 left the impression that the device was a complete failure, but while that early version had serious problems, in fact it was later modified to become the CardioWest C-70, which has served hundreds as a bridge to heart transplant.
After the Jarvik-7 experience, the federal government convened an advisory panel to consider whether artificial heart technology should receive further funding--ultimately deciding that it should.
During the press frenzy surrounding the Jarvik-7, for instance, William Shroeder, who survived 620 days with the device, read in the newspaper that he was depressed and felt impelled to ask his physician whether his life was endangered by depression.
"If the Arizona group was motivated to save the patient's life," Jennings says, "there's no justificiation for using a device that's untested if they can get their hands on a better device." the Arizona group, however, apparently would not have been on better legal ground if they had used the Jarvik-7. The FDA's 1976 Medical Device Act allows for emergency use of artificial hearts only if the doctor or hospital has filed for FDA approval.
The misgivings about the Jarvik-7 are evident in the difficulty DeVries, who performed four of the five permanent implants, has had in finding volunteers for another such operation.
Bjarne Semb, that the Jarvik-7 should not be used as a permanent device until it is modified (The Courier-Journal, 26 October 1985, 1B).
But the reports also said severe infections were virtually inevitable after thirty days on the Jarvik-7. The synthetic device acted like a magnet or culture medium for bacteria, which thrived in and around it.
Nonetheless, DeVries contends that it is too early to draw conclusions about the Jarvik-7 after only five permanent implants.