Duke Medical Center Makes Breakthrough in Pediatric Heart Transplant: Transplanted Heart Parts Found to Grow with Child – The News Teller

Doctors at Duke Health have achieved a groundbreaking medical feat by successfully performing a partial heart transplant on a 17-day-old baby, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The objective of the procedure was to implant valves and arteries into the child’s heart in order for them to grow together with the heart, potentially saving the child from further surgeries as they grow older.

The surgery was conducted on a baby named Owen Monroe, who was born with a rare heart condition called truncus arteriosus, where the two main heart arteries are fused together. Instead of a full heart transplant, tissue from a donor heart was used, which had strong valves but could not be utilized for a complete transplant. Prior methods involved inserting non-living valves that would not grow, necessitating frequent replacements and posing risks to the patient.

The study revealed that the transplanted valves in Owen’s heart were growing as if they were his own. Remarkably, the procedure required only a quarter of the immunosuppressant medication typically needed for a full heart transplant. This success paves the way for domino heart transplants, where a heart can save two lives by utilizing healthy valves from a donor heart.

The procedure has been performed a total of 13 times at four medical centers worldwide, with Duke carrying out nine of those, including multiple domino heart transplants. This breakthrough offers new hope for patients in similar situations, as previous options would often involve using cadaver tissue which does not grow, necessitating repeated surgeries as the child grows, along with increased risks.

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Looking ahead, Duke doctors plan to conduct further clinical trials involving more patients to continue advancing this revolutionary procedure. The study’s authors, Joseph W. Turek, Lillian Kang, Douglas Overbey, Michael P. Carboni, and Taufiek K. Rajab, have played a key role in this groundbreaking research.

The successful partial heart transplant at Duke Health represents a major leap forward in the field of pediatric cardiology. Owen Monroe’s story is a testament to the dedication and innovation of medical professionals who strive to improve the lives of their patients. As more clinical trials take place, it is hoped that this procedure will become more widely available, offering long-term benefits and renewed hope for children with complex heart conditions.

Queenie Bell

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