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An infant with a severe heart defect has received the first-ever partial heart transplant from a living donor. This world first saved his life and will spare him other operations. This technique offers new perspectives to the large number of children suffering from congenital heart disease.
It’s a real surgical feat that took place in North Carolina. Owen Monroe, an infant with an arterial trunk, received the first-ever partial heart transplant from a living donor. Now 4 months old, he is in perfect health.
A world first and the only hope for Owen
When he was born, Owen Monroe had little chance of survival. He presented with an extremely rare anomaly: his two main arteries were merged because his primitive trunk, during pregnancy, had not divided into the pulmonary artery and the aorta. However, without surgery, the prognosis was grim – the heart would have been quickly overworked.
Usually, in case of common arterial trunk, dead tissue is used. But they must be replaced several times before adulthood because the valves do not grow with the child. This congenital heart disease also requires lifelong follow-up and therefore several operations.
The other possible option is a complete heart transplant. But the waiting time is often far too long: in this case, Owen Monroe’s parents had to wait almost six months. An option not conceivable for their son who would not survive it.
But the doctors then offered the parents a rather special operation: to separate and replace the leaking heart valves of their son with living tissue from another infant.
The grafted tissue grows with the child: no need for new operations
A Duke Health team has performed what is believed to be the world’s first partial heart transplant, with the arteries and living valves of a freshly donated heart fused onto a patient’s existing heart.
The goal is to allow the valves to grow with the child over time, increasing life expectancy. “This procedure potentially solves the problem of a growing valve“said Prof. Joseph W. Turek, Duke’s chief of pediatric cardiac surgery, who led the operation.”If we can eliminate the need for multiple open-heart surgeries each time a child outgrows an old valve, we could extend that child’s life by decades or more.”Turek said.
“What is particularly remarkable about this procedure is that not only can this innovation extend the lives of children, but it uses a donated heart that otherwise would not be transplantable.“, said Prof. Michael Carboni, pediatric cardiologist.
“The valves for this procedure were taken from a donor heart that had too weak muscle tissue to make it viable for a full transplant, but had strong valves that were well suited to Owen’s needs.said Prof. Carboni.This Innovation Amplifies the Ways We Can Use the Incredible Gift of Organ Donation to Save More Livess”.
A “miracle” according to Owen’s mother
The team’s effort to implant valves that could grow with a patient appears to be a success. Owen is showing remarkable growth and improvement since undergoing surgery on April 22, 2022, and his heart is developing perfectly.
For the mother, this operation is a “miracle”:
” Not only is he doing well, but he is also flourishing every day. It’s a great message of hope for all the babies who have to go through this ordeal. “.
Duke experts hope a similar approach could be used to treat common valve replacements in children with heart defects, providing a one-time surgery to implant freshly donated tissue that could grow with the child.