o The Frog Blog: First Heart Transplant

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

First Heart Transplant

On December 3rd, 1967, in Cape Town, South Africa, Dr. Christiaan Barnard, with his team of 20 surgeons, performed the first human heart transplant on a South African businessman, 54-yr-old Louis Washkansky. His diseased heart was replaced with the healthy heart of a 25-year old woman who had died in a car crash. Washkansky lasted only 18 days before succumbing to double pneumonia, contracted after destruction of his body's immunity mechanism by drugs administered to suppress rejection of the new heart as a foreign protein. However, the next patient, Philip Blaiberg, lived for nearly two years. Since then, many thousands of human heart transplants have been performed.

Almost exactly 15 years later, on December 2nd 1982, Barney Clark became the world's first recipient of a permanent artificial heart. Surgery was performed by Dr. William DeVries in cooperation with the inventor, Dr. Robert Jarvik. In preparation, Clark visited the veterinary laboratory at the University of Utah to see calves that had already received the artificial hearts. Near death, and with his own heart practically useless, Clark agreed to the experiment. He said, "It may not work that well for me, but I'll do it for the next patient." He lived 112 days on the artificial heart. Of the next four implants, the longest survivor was William Schroeder, who lived 620 days.

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