PHOTO: AZPM
Dr. M. Cristina Smith, of the University of Arizona department of surgery, discusses new developments in artificial heart technology.

Until now, patients with artificial hearts had to stay in the hospital until a donor heart was available for transplant. The wait involved being hooked up to an enormous machine weighing over 400 pounds, and could last years.

Now, a new portable device called the "Freedom" driver allows patients waiting for a heart transplant the freedom to be out and about instead of in the hospital. Compact enough to fit into a backpack, users plug the device into a standard outlet at home.

Dr. M. Cristina Smith, director of University Medical Center's Heart Transplant and Ventricular-Assist Device Services and assistant professor of surgery in the University of Arizona department of surgery, joins Arizona Illustrated to discuss the device, its development and the potential impact it could have on patient care.