Surgeons Complete World's First Partial Heart Transplant On Newborn

By Bill Galluccio

September 12, 2022

Supernumerary finger, Polydactyly case of newborn portrait
Photo: Getty Images

Dr. Joseph Turek and a team of doctors and surgeons from Duke Health in Durham, North Carolina, successfully completed the world's first partial heart transplant on a newborn baby.

Owen Monroe had a slim chance of survival after he was born with truncus arteriosus, a condition in which two of his arteries were fused together. Unfortunately, Owen also had a leaky valve, and doctors said he would not survive long enough to wait for a full heart transplant.

Even if doctors replaced the valves, the young boy would still have to undergo multiple surgeries as he grew older because the donated valves would not develop along with his heart.

Dr. Turek and his team had a novel approach to help Owen. They procured a donor heart with strong valves that could not be used for a full transplant and fused the living tissue onto the young boy's heart.

"What's particularly remarkable about this procedure, is that not only is this innovation something that can extend the lives of children, but it makes use of a donated heart that would otherwise not be transplantable," said Michael Carboni, M.D., an associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Duke University School of Medicine and Owen's pediatric transplant cardiologist.

"The valves in this procedure come from a donor heart that had muscle tissue which was too weak to make it viable for full transplant but had strong valves that were well suited for Owen's needs," Carboni said. "This innovation amplifies the ways in which we can use the incredible gift of organ donation to save more lives."

Doctors hope the new technique can be used to save other children who were born with heart defects.

"If we can eliminate the need for multiple open-heart surgeries every time a child outgrows an old valve, we could be extending the life of that child by potentially decades or more," Turek said.

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