Boy Gets Second ‘Piggyback’ Heart

In a rare procedure, doctors attached a second heart to the diseased heart of a 7-year-old boy, making him one of the youngest recipients of a “piggyback” transplant, surgeons said.

The hearts are connected side by side - like Siamese twins - at the valves and chambers. Blood is pumped by whichever heart chamber is stronger at a particular moment.

The boy, identified only as Christopher, was moved Monday from intensive care to a private room after the surgery last Wednesday.

“He thinks he’s going to live to be 100,” his father said.

Christopher will have two heartbeats at different rates for the rest of his life, his doctors said.

The boy needs the additional heart because he has cardiomyopathy, a disease that stiffened the walls of his own heart, restricting blood flow and causing the blood to back up and build pressure in his lungs.

His parents have known since his infancy that Christopher eventually would need a transplant. Doctors decided his lungs are under so much pressure that they could collapse after a single transplant, when the donor heart is weakest. But by staying in place, the old heart backs up the new one.

Doctors also wanted to avoid a heart-lung transplant because the human body is more likely to reject a lung.

But the survival rate for “piggyback” patients after five years is notably lower than for patients who receive single heart transplants, said Joel Newman of the United Network for Organ Sharing.

Doctors said Christopher has made it through the first fragile days and should recover much like any other heart transplant recipient.

The boy is among roughly 20 pediatric patients worldwide to have received a second heart since the procedure was developed in the mid-1980s, and he is one of the youngest, surgeons said.

Tags: Medical

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