Man receives pig heart in historic transplant surgery

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A man who had his heart swapped out for the heart of a genetically modified pig is doing well days after undergoing the historic transplant surgery, according to a University of Maryland Medical Center news release.

“It was either die or do this transplant. I want to live. I know it’s a shot in the dark, but it’s my last choice,” David Bennett said a day prior to his surgery, according to the release.

The 57-year-old was suffering from terminal heart disease and underwent the procedure as a last resort. He had been ruled ineligible for a traditional heart transplant at UMMC and some other transplant centers that examined his medical records, according to the release.

“It creates the pulse, it creates the pressure, it is his heart,” Dr. Bartley Griffith said, according to the New York Times. “It’s working and it looks normal. We are thrilled, but we don’t know what tomorrow will bring us. This has never been done before.”

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According to the press release, Griffith “surgically transplanted” the animal organ into Bennett.

“This was a breakthrough surgery and brings us one step closer to solving the organ shortage crisis. There are simply not enough donor human hearts available to meet the long list of potential recipients,” Griffith said, according to the UMMC release. “We are proceeding cautiously, but we are also optimistic that this first-in-the-world surgery will provide an important new option for patients in the future.”

The heart was extracted from the genetically-modified animal on the morning of the procedure.

“On the morning of the transplant surgery, the surgical team, led by Dr. Griffith and Dr. [Muhammad] Mohiuddin, removed the pig’s heart and placed it in the XVIVO Heart Box, perfusion device, a machine that keeps the heart preserved until surgery,” the news release noted.

Bennett remains connected to a heart-lung bypass machine, though the New York Times reported that doctors said he could be removed from it on Tuesday.

Pig heart valves were already being utilized in humans for some time, and both the AP and the New York Times reported that Bennett’s son said that his father had gotten such a valve around 10 years ago.

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