Pioneers of the Berlin Heart

Lucile Packard berlin heart teamFor a child awaiting a heart transplant, the Berlin Heart offers a bridge to life. A miniature, external heart-pump attached by tubes, the Berlin Heart is a revolutionary device that sustains a child whose heart may be too weak to work on its own.

But bringing that device to young children required the unique expertise of pediatric heart specialists and a close, trusting partnership with families. Back in 2004, at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, that combination resulted in a breakthrough for the youngest patient at the time ever placed on the Berlin Heart—5-month old Miles Coulson. Before Miles, the Berlin Heart had been used on only 49 children in Europe, and had been approved by the FDA on an individual basis for just three other children in the U.S. Miles survived on the Berlin Heart for 55 days until a donor heart became available.

“We were one of the first pediatric centers in the U.S. to use a Berlin Heart to support children with cardiomyopathy awaiting heart transplant,” said David Rosenthal, MD, director of the pediatric heart failure program. “Additionally, this expertise led to our participation in the landmark FDA approval study for the Berlin Heart.”

Two years after Miles’ successful transplant, Dr. Rosenthal and his team helped 5-year-old Jason Zhao survive for a U.S.-record-breaking 234 days until transplant, longer than any other child in North America. Jason’s record was happily surpassed by other patients and hospitals in the years that followed.

Since then, Packard Children’s has bridged a total of 25 patients to transplant using the Berlin Heart and helped clear the way for children at other hospitals to benefit from this device, too. But the innovative device is just one important part of breakthrough, family-centered care.

“Our ventricular assist device specialists are part of a multidisciplinary team with expertise in the nursing, rehabilitation, nutrition, and physician and psychiatric care for complex cases.”

Today, for children awaiting transplant, the Children’s Heart Center at Packard Children’s offers the latest in advanced care and research—including the Berlin Heart—to help ensure the very best outcomes.

NBC News reports on Berlin Heart patient Lindsey Bingham’s wait for a donor

Twelve-year-old Sierra Bingham of Haines, OR received a lifesaving heart transplant at Packard Children’s in 2006. Now the Bingham family is back at the hospital awaiting a 2nd heart transplant, this time for 8-year-old sister Lindsey. Incredibly, parents Stacy and Jason are also facing heart issues in their three other children. NBC News reports on the family’s extraordinarily unlikely and emotional story.


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