'Berlin heart' gives ill children a chance

'Berlin heart' gives ill children a chance »Play Video
A young heart transplant patient rests in bed while he is kept alive with a Berlin heart. The device is the round object in the lower left of the photo.
UNDATED - Until recently, children under the age of 5 had only a small chance of survival if their heart failed.
But doctors now say a new device from Germany can keep children alive for months until a donor heart becomes available.

The small machine is called the "Berlin heart"  and it was recently used to keep a 2-year-old Pittsburgh, Penn., boy alive after a virus attacked his heart.

The device is much smaller than the more well-known implantable artificial heart.

Dr. Peter Wearden of the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh said "in the simplest terms, the Berlin heart does the job of the heart, which is to pump the blood."
Instead of being implanted, the Berlin heart mechanism sits outside the chest of the patient with only small tubes implanted to carry blood in and out of the actual heart.

Unlike a heart-lung machine that can only be used for two weeks, the Berlin heart can be used for months while patients wait for an acceptable heart transplant candidate organ.
The parents of the small boy who used the device in Pittsburg said they saw a remarkable improvement in his health after the device was attached to their son, who is 2.

He has since had a heart transplant and is recovering.

Doctors say they expect the Berlin heart to be used more often in the U.S. in the future.