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First Human Heart Transplant

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What is Heart Transplant?

Removal and replacement of a diseased heart with a healthy heart from an organ donor is called heart transplant. Heart transplant is a medical term and it is done by medical professionals where two or more healthcare providers must declare the donor brain as dead. It is also referred to as cardiac transplant and involves surgical procedure to replace the heart with severe coronary artery disease or end-stage heart failure condition when all other medical or surgical treatments are no more hope.

Some Facts Related to Heart Transplant

  • Every year, approx 3.5 K heart transplants are performed worldwide and over half of this is done in the US. 

  • It is known that the post-operative survival period for a patient is 15 years. 

  • Heart transplantation can be considered as a life-saving treatment rather than a cure for heart disease which aims to improve the duration and quality of life of the patient.

  • Before human-to-human transplant, earlier, the heart of a chimpanzee was transplanted into the chest of a human, Boyd Rush. However, due to this kidney failure in humans was observed. Later, we will discuss in detail about the first human heart transplant in this article. 

  • The largest heart transplant center in the world is known to be California where 132 adult transplants have been done in the year 2015 alone.

  • Allotransplants is a technical term for a transplant done from a non-genetically identical individual of the same species.

  • In the year 1968, over 100 transplants were performed by numerous doctors and only a third of the patients liver over 3 months.

  • Various contradictions and complications related to heart transplant are known which we will discuss later in this write-up.

When Was the First Human Heart Transplant Operation Done?

The first human-to-human heart transplant was performed in the year 1967 on December 6. It was performed by South African cardiac surgeon named Christiaan Barnard on Louis Washkansky in Cape Town, South Africa. However, the patient died after 18  days of the operation due to pneumonia.

Further, in the 1970s, better anti-rejection drugs were discovered that made the heart transplant process more viable. Dr. Barnard was dedicated to perform heart transplantation and by the late 1970s, many of the recipients were able to live up to five years with the receiving of new hearts. Today, much of the successful heart transplant stories can be found and the only difficult part is to find appropriate donors.


Why Did Louis Washkansky Need a Heart Transplant?

Washkansky was a South African grocer suffering from chronic heart disease, and the first Louis Washkansky heart transplant was performed and was possible because of the recipient named Denise Darvall who was a 25-year-old woman and fatally injured in a car accident. Surgeon Christiaan Barnard was the person to perform it at the University of Cape Town.


First Pediatric Heart Transplant

It was performed on the 6th of December, 1967 in Brooklyn, New York at Maimonides hospital. It was performed by Adrian Kantrowitz, however, the infant’s new heart stopped functioning after 7 hours and thus the surgeon admitted that the operation was unsuccessful.

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FAQs on First Human Heart Transplant

1. What is the Ethical Standard for Allowing a Heart Transplant?

Brain death is the current ethical standard for allowing a heart donation from a person. As the heart transplant process requires a donor and a recipient, the donor is a person whose heart is transplanted into the person needing it, it has to be confirmed that the donor is no longer functioning via brain, i.e. brain death.

2. Who Performed Louis Washkansky Heart Transplant?

Louis Washkansky heart transplant was the first human heart transplant, i..e. Human-to-human and it was performed by surgeon Christiaan Barnard in the University of Cape Town. 

3. How Long Did the First Human Transplant Patient Survive?

Louis Washkansky, the first human transplant patient, survived for 18 days after the surgery and then died due to pneumonia.

4. What is Cardiac Transplant?

Cardiac transplant is another name of heart transplant which is done for the patients with heart diseases. In this procedure, a recipient i.e patient is transplanted with the donor’s heart. It is ethical practice which should be performed when two surgeons declare the donor as brain dead. 

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