Two simultaneous heart transplants at Chennai hospital

March 23rd, 2010 - 9:54 pm ICT by IANS  

Chennai, March 23 (IANS) Doctors at a private hospital here performed two simultaneous heart transplant operations last week, in what could be the first such instance in the world. Both the recipients, who had less than six months to live, are recovering well.
The challenge was to retrieve the hearts from two different hospitals here and bring them to the Frontier Lifeline Hospital (FLH) immediately for transplant, FLH’s chairman and CEO and renowned heart specialist K.M. Cherian told IANS.

“One may have the expertise, experience, infrastructure, technology and a team. There is something called providence which is needed to make all these things come together at the same time to save a life,” he said.

FLH had registered its two male patients - one aged 22 and the other 32 - for cadaver heart transplant. “Their Ejection-Fraction or the force of heart contraction was less than 15 percent and their life expectancy was less than six months,” Cherian said.

Around 8 p.m March 18, FLH got information about the availability of two donor hearts for transplant from the convener of cadaver transplant but they had to be retrieved from two different hospitals - Government General Hospital (GH) and the Apollo Hospital.

Immediately, FLH mobilised its medical teams - eight cardiac surgeons, two anaesthetists and two perfusionists. The two recipients were brought to the hospital and made ready for the operation.

“It was really a challenging task. We had to mobilise four teams - two for harvesting the hearts from the donors and two at FLH to perform the transplant operation. Time is the most critical aspect as the harvested hearts have to be brought to the recipients fast,” Cherian said.

The time of removal and restoration of blood supply to the harvested heart is a critical task, he said. While a maximum time of three hours is permitted, the FLH accomplished it in one hour and twenty minutes, with the help of the city police.

But hearts cannot be replaced without tests for compatibility and the condition of the donor hearts, among others.

This medical process started at around midnight at GH and Apollo, and on completion, both the transplants started at 3.00 a.m March 19 in two adjoining operation theatres at FLH and were completed at 7.30 a.m.

“This is the first time in the world that such an accomplishment has taken place. A similar precedent can be found in 2001 at New York, when dual heart transplants were carried out on twins, six days from one another and again in 2009, when two heart transplants were carried out on the same day at Newcastle (Great Britain),” Cherian said.

He said the two patients will be discharged in two weeks’ time.

Cherian also thanked the city police for helping his team to transport the harvested heart to FLH from two different places.

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