Zollner gives children with heart disease freedom of movement

Zollner Elektronik AG has developed a handy, easy-to-carry drive for the innovative heart support systems of Berlin Heart GmbH and transferred it to series production.

The EXCOR® Active compact drive means considerably more mobility and independence, especially for children who suffer from a functional weakness of the heart and are dependent on a cardiac support pump. The white-blue box weighs 15 kilograms and can be hung on the back of the buggy or taken everywhere like a luggage trolley. Until just a few weeks ago, children were dependent on a 90 kilogram stationary drive system almost one meter tall.

Without a cardiac support pump, life is in danger

Children whose heart is not able to supply the amount of blood required by the body and to supply the organs with sufficient oxygen and nutrients need a donor heart. In order to bridge the waiting time for the organ, which can last for months in some cases, there is the EXCOR® Pediatric Heart Support System from Berlin Heart GmbH, which is the only one worldwide approved for infants and small children. Because there is no space in the thorax of little patients for an implantable cardiac support system, tubes connect a pump outside the body with the heart chambers and blood vessels. For infants whose heart beats faster and weaker than that of an adult, two electronically controlled piston stroke pumps with a pumping frequency of up to 130 strokes per minute are used. They are connected in such a way that one piston stroke pump can immediately replace the other in an emergency.

The accompanying therapy is very complex. This is why the children have to stay in hospital the whole time. So that they can at least leave the hospital room, Berlin Heart has added EXCOR® Active, the world's only mobile drive for a cardiac support system that is also approved for infants and toddlers, to its product range. It has a battery life of at least five hours.

You can rely on the compact drive

Zollner Elektronik AG has taken over the development of the compact drive for EXCOR® Active. The Research & Development division designed the complete mechatronic system in all its complexity and brought it to series production readiness. For this purpose, 25 prototypes of the compact drive were manufactured with the help of a production department and subjected to extensive long-term tests. Zollner also carried out all relevant approval tests. After all, the functional safety of the cardiac support system is vital for the patients' survival. The compact drive must be insensitive to environmental influences, i.e. it must work just as reliably at extreme temperatures as it does in the face of electromagnetic interference or vibration.

Zollner Elektronik AG has also optimised the production processes for series production, which it started in the third quarter of 2019 with 25 devices including accessories. The first little patients received EXCOR® Active in February 2020 after the new system was certified with the CE mark in November 2019, confirming that it complies with the applicable European directives.

Energy supply always guaranteed

The power supply of the compact drive is based on three sources: a power supply unit for regular operation in hospitals, two rechargeable batteries with a minimum runtime of five hours and an emergency battery in the device, which allows the patient to be supplied with power for up to half an hour. To safeguard the mobile energy supply against failure, two of the batteries are always in use at the same time. In addition to the batteries, Zollner also supplies an external charger with the compact drive. Within three hours it fully recharges a battery if required. A caddy similar to a luggage trolley is also supplied with which the compact drive can be easily transported. This makes the compact drive a reliable constant companion for children, keeping pace with their urge to move.

Ludwig Zollner, member of the board of Zollner Elektronik AG, says: "The world of children with heart disease should not be limited to a hospital room. Our development team has therefore worked with great commitment on a system that enables greater mobility. It has found innovative solutions, perfected the drive system in close cooperation with a production department, and finally brought it to series production readiness. We are pleased that we were able to help make the stressful wait for a donor heart at least more child-friendly".

The pump, which supports the child's heart, is connected to the compact drive via a hose. With the help of two rechargeable batteries, this little patient is mobile for at least five hours. Picture Credits: Berlin Heart GmbH

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