Tamil Nadu CM J Jayalalithaa has been put on a heart assist device: Here's how it works

This heart assist device can support your heart during or after the surgery till the heart recovers, while a patient is waiting for heart transplant and if the patient is not eligible for a heart transplant.


Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa is undergoing treatment for cardiac arrest which she suffered on Sunday evening. Four specialists from AIIMS are expected to reach Apollo Hospital according to health minister JP Nadda. Dr Richard Beale, consultant intensivist at Guys and Thomas Hospital in London, who had examined the chief minister thrice in the past three months, is also being consulted for the same.

Apollo Hospitals has issued a press release stating that Jayalalithaa's condition "continues to be very critical and is on ECMO and other life-support systems". She is being closely monitored by a team of experts.

According to Firstpost, Jayalalithaa was admitted at the Apollo Hospitals more than two months ago with distress to her lungs and heart and also some infection. Although the hospital was tight-lipped about her condition initially, it later admitted that she was on respiratory support and on medicines to fight the infection.

Currently, the CM has been put on extracorporeal membrane heart assist device. The name extracorporeal means that it is a procedure that is performed outside the body. This treatment is considered when the human heart, which pumps close to 4-6 litres of blood per minute, is unable to pump blood to the vital organs.

In this case, the heart assist device is used to help a person whose heart and lungs are not able to produce enough oxygen and pump blood. The assist device is like a mechanical pump which takes bloody from the lower chamber of the heart, passes it through an external pump and helps to pump it back the vital organs through the aorta, just like a healthy heart would.

 Tamil Nadu CM J Jayalalithaa has been put on a heart assist device: Heres how it works

Image: National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute

This process is called extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), because it introduces oxygen into the blood stream after emptying it of carbon dioxide. A small tube carries blood out from the heart into the pump. The pump empties the blood of carbon dioxide and introduces oxygen in it. This oxygenated blood is then pumped to the blood vessels so it reaches the vital organs. This method is used when the patient's heart and lungs are not able to perform the pumping function, which is vital for the functioning of the human body.

This heart assist device can support your heart during or after the surgery till the heart recovers, while a patient is waiting for heart transplant and if the patient is not eligible for a heart transplant.

According to this study, the survival rate is between 50 to 70 percent with the ECMO treatment.


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