High-tech lifesaver made of PUR and silicone

Precision in the micrometre range. 100 % reliability. In the production of artificial hearts by Berlin Heart, the highest standards of quality apply for all processes. The modules for the ventricular assist device EXCOR® are dried in a Memmert drying oven and vacuum oven.

Artificial hearts, so-called ventricular assist devices or VADs, are used predominantly when waiting times for a heart transplant need to be bridged. Berlin is one of the most important international centres for cardiological research. This is where Emil Bücherl worked, one of the first surgeons to perform heart transplants after Christiaan Barnard and the developer of the Berlin artificial heart. His research Institute later became the German Heart Institute Berlin, which in turn was the origin for numerous offshoots. One of these is the company Berlin Heart, for example, founded in 1996 and today one of the leading manufacturers worldwide of mechanical ventricular assist devices.

Artificial hearts in all sizes and for all ages

At Berlin Heart, the Clinical Affairs specialists, a team consisting of heart surgeons, biomedical engineers and intensive care specialists, are ready and waiting round-the-clock to provide consultation in the therapy and selection of the most suitable artificial heart – in an emergency, even on site worldwide. If an acute heart insufficiency should occur in a patient, there is usually no donor heart available. In this case, paracorporal VADs, systems with the blood pump outside the body or implantable systems step into the breach as lifesavers. A heart disease can affect people of all ages. Therefore, the specialists at Berlin Heart take particular pride in their technological advance in the miniaturisation of artificial hearts. The EXCOR ® Pediatric system has been successfully applied even in babies only six months old.

Reliable and high-precision processes

Also in production, only specially trained technicians work at Berlin Heart. Thus, clockmakers and precision engineers are responsible for the precise finishing, down to the micrometre, of pumps and cannula, since the slightest unevenness or deviation can lead to life-threatening complications in the patient. Of course, the entire manufacturing and processing of components, predominantly consisting of polyurethane and silicone, takes place under cleanroom conditions. In the Memmert drying oven components for the EXCOR® product series are hardened, and in the Memmert Vacuum drying oven the assembled EXCOR®  blood pumps are subsequently carefully dried and degassed. After several years of experience with the Memmert drying ovens, Berlin Heart particularly appreciates the reliability of the devices along with their simple handling. Once a year, the appliances are calibrated to ensure that the same temperature exists at every point in the interior of the drying oven.

Programme-controlled vacuum cycles for ventilation

The blood pumps made from heat-sensitive polyurethane are dried gently in a vacuum at 30 °C over a period of 24 hours. In doing this, Berlin Heart makes use of the advantages of the digitally controllable vacuum cycles in the Memmert Vacuum drying oven. The pressure in the chamber is reduced a number of times to ventilate the chamber load and to degas any residues that may persist. The special advantage here: it is controlled by the programme within the production process without intervention by employees being necessary. 

AtmoSAFE thanks the team at Berlin Heart for their friendly support in the writing of this article.