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Baby thriving a year after world's first partial-heart transplant

At just 18 days old in 2022, Owen Monroe received a partial heart transplant due to a congenital heart defect.
Baby thriving a year after world's first partial-heart transplant
Posted at 3:32 PM, Jan 04, 2024

Little Owen Monroe, just 18 days old and weighing 5 pounds, made history in 2022 as the world's first partial-heart transplant recipient.

Now, more than a year later, his tiny heart tissues are holding on strong and growing along with the adorable toddler.

Doctors at Duke Health made a breakthrough using a new method for valve procurement in Monroe's partial heart transplant, and while examining the child's recovery post-surgery, they discovered that this approach led to two properly functioning valves and arteries. The findings were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“This publication is proof that this technology works, this idea works, and can be used to help other children,” said Dr. Joseph W. Turek, the study's first author and Duke's chief of pediatric cardiac surgery, in a press release. 

The study highlights that the procedure requires less medication than a full heart transplant, minimizing potential long-term side effects. 

Dr. Turek emphasizes that this innovative approach paves the way for a potential domino heart transplant, in which one heart can save two lives when a patient undergoes a full heart transplant and their healthy valves are passed on to another patient.

“You could potentially double the number of hearts that are used for the benefit of children with heart disease,” Turek said. “Of all the hearts that are donated, roughly half meet the criteria to go on to be used for full transplant, but we believe there’s an equal number of hearts that could be used for valves ... If you introduce the donated hearts that weren’t being put to use into the supply chain and add the valves from domino heart transplants, that can create a substantial change."

This procedure has now been conducted 13 times at four global centers, with nine instances at Duke Health, including several domino heart transplants, Duke Health states. 

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