Instead of a transplant, patients may soon get two hearts
Doctors in Chennai have developed a unique way of saving those with weak hearts: planting an additional heart in the body without replacing the original. They recently tested the procedure on two dogs by putting an extra heart in their stomach. It worked. If such a procedure in humans gains ground, lives of patients as well as lots of money could be saved.
Many patients with weak hearts can't even get a transplant
According to norms, hearts from donors with pumping capacity of below 30% are rejected. Many times, patients with weak hearts can't even go for a transplant due to multiple organ failure. A ventricular device that helps hearts pump blood costs at least Rs. 1cr.
What's the new procedure about?
Such patients could be given an additional heart which "can save money and life", said Frontier Lifeline chief Dr KM Cherian. The 'bio-left ventricular assist device' will be implanted in the abdomen, thereby reducing surgical risks of cutting open the chest. "It can be a bridge to transplant until the patient gets fit, or it can be the treatment," said Frontier's Dr Madhu Shankar.
What progress has been made till now?
Earlier this year, doctors in Coimbatore conducted heterotropic heart transplants: they left an extra heart in a patient's chest cavity. For the dogs, they connected the new heart to the abdominal portion of major blood vessels. Both died within two days, but postmortem reportedly showed their heart muscle was viable, which "indicates the success of the transplant," Dr Shankar said.
So will patients get to avail the life-saving procedure soon?
A Frontier Lifeline team has now sought permission from the ethics committee for a clinical trial; they want to retrieve 'misfit' hearts from donors for 'piggyback transplants' in patients who can't get a full-fledged heart transplant. Doctors have admitted larger human trials will be needed.