Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What is the AbioCor?
AbioCor Implantable Replacement Heart is an advanced medical
system being developed by ABIOMED Inc., in order to extend and improve
the lives of patients who would otherwise die of heart failure.
The AbioCor, designed to fully sustain the body's circulatory system,
is intended to serve as an alternative to heart transplantation
-- the current method of saving patients with failing natural hearts.
How many patients could potentially benefit from
More than 700,000 Americans die
each year from heart failure, making it the number one cause of
death in the U.S., as well as worldwide. About half of these are
sudden cardiac deaths, which occur so quickly that there is not
enough time for intervention with a cardiac assist or replacement
device. For the remaining half, heart transplantation is one of
the few options available today. Though hundreds of thousands are
in need, only about 2,000 people in the U.S. will be able to receive
donor hearts every year. This consistent shortage in the supply
of donor hearts in the U.S. demonstrates the need for an alternative
to heart transplantation. ABIOMED believes that currently more than
100,000 people in the U.S. could benefit from the AbioCor each year.
What type of patient could benefit from
The AbioCor is intended for use with patients whose
hearts have irreparably damaged left and/or right ventricles, and
for whom existing methods of surgical intervention and/or drug therapy
are inadequate. The AbioCor can be used with patients who suffer
from congestive heart failure or coronary heart disease. Congestive
heart failure, prevalent in older patients, is a result of the progressive
deterioration of the heart over a number of years. Coronary artery
disease is prevalent at all ages and can lead to heart attacks and
chronic ischemic conditions.
Today, those end-stage heart failure patients in theh
U.S. who are not fortunate to receive one of the limited 2,000 donor
hearts have no alternative but to face death. The AbioCor could
give these patients with irreversibly failing hearts an opportunity
to both extend and improve the quality of their lives and return
to a productive lifestyle. A similar need exists throughout the
How does the AbioCor work?
one of the most sophisticated implantable medical devices to be
developed, the AbioCor is designed so that a patient can remain
mobile and continue a productive lifestyle. Equipped with an internal
motor, the AbioCor is able to move blood through the lungs and to
the rest of the body, simulating the rhythm of a heartbeat. The
AbioCor consists of an internal thoracic unit, an internal rechargeable
battery, an internal miniaturized electronics package and an external
The thoracic unit, weighing about two pounds, includes
two artificial ventricles with their corresponding valves and a
motor-driven hydraulic pumping system. The implantable electronics
package monitors and controls the pumping speed of the heart based
on the physiologic needs of the patient. The AbioCor operates on
both internal and external lithium batteries. The internally implanted
battery is continually recharged from an external console or from
a basic patient-carried external battery pack. This is achieved
with an energy transfer device called TET (transcutaneous energy
transmission). The TET system consists of a set of coils, one internal
and one external, which transmit power across the skin without piercing
How long do the batteries last?
The internal batteries of the AbioCor are sized for
a one-half hour operation at implant, allowing patients to conduct
activities, such as taking a shower, without an external power source
or battery pack. External battery packs can be used for many hours
depending on the number of battery packs carried.
What is the AbioCor made of?
The AbioCor is primarily made of titanium and Angioflex(TM),
ABIOMED's proprietary polyether-based polyurethane plastic. Angioflex
has been developed and tested by ABIOMED to be a dependable substance
and safe for contact with blood. The AbioCor is designed to have
relatively few moving parts. Moving parts such as the valves and
hydraulic membranes are manufactured from Angioflex. Angioflex has
proven flexible and durable enough to withstand beating 100,000
times a day (the approximate number of beats per day of the natural
heart). The AbioCor's smooth plastic construction and unique design
are specifically engineered to reduce the likelihood of damage to
blood cells and to prevent clotting.