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Severance hospital succeeds in transplanting 2 hearts to pediatric patient
  • By Lee Han-soo
  • Published 2018.12.26 14:38
  • Updated 2018.12.27 14:48
  • comments 0

Severance Hospital said Wednesday that it has managed to maintain heart function by transferring artificial heart to a one-year-old child who suffered cardiac arrest. Later, it also and succeeded in implanting another heart from a donor to bring the baby back to full health.

Professor Shin Yoo-ryim (left) and Professor Jeong Se-yong

The surgery is the first case in Korea where the doctors managed to complete cardiac transplantation after giving the infant an artificial heart to prolong survivability.

“This case is significant in that it showed the effect and possibility of an artificial heart (left ventricular assist device or LVAD) transplantation on a patient who suffered from continuous threat of heart failure until a heart donor appeared,” the hospital said. “Especially in children donors of similar age are rarely seen, which in turn had raised the risk of death before the heart transplant.”

The patient, a 13-month-old girl, came to the hospital after she suddenly stopped eating and had decreased movement as well as having a hard time breathing.

Professor Jeong Se-yong at the hospital diagnosed the patient with dilated cardiomyopathy, which is a systemic blood circulation disorder due to cardiac dysfunction, which can cause rare, intractable disease that can gradually lead to death due to loss of function of peripheral organs such as lung, liver, and kidney.

The only major treatment available is heart transplantation.

In the absence of knowing when a heart donor will appear, Severance Hospital staff first recommended an extracorporeal LVAD transplant to replace the child's heart function.

While the parents had a difficult time to decide due to the heavy burden of surgery on the baby's body, the child's heart stopped two times and had to receive extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) treatment.

Such dangers led to the patient’s parent finally deciding to undergo LVAD surgery for their baby.

Although the surgery had been costly, the change in reimbursement regulations helped lift the financial burden for the patient’s parents.

The new regulation states that the patient only has to pay 5 percent, which is a similar rate for incurable diseases. The patient became the first child to undergo artificial heart transplant after health insurance, which cost about 7 million won ($6,210), on Nov. 5.

The baby was fortunate to receive a heart transplant on Nov. 30 as a heart donor miraculously appeared.

“The child successfully recovered and returned to her parents on Monday,” the hospital said. “The child will be regularly supervised in the future but will get to live a normal life.”

Professor Shin Yoo-ryim, who had conducted both surgeries, also said, “This case represents a representative role of an artificial heart as the LVAD played an important to maintain the patient's life and health until the transplant donor appears.”

The case is also the first in Korea that a patient successfully underwent organ transplantation after receiving an artificial heart and is expected to provide a new turning point for treatment of intractable heart disease in Korea, Shin added.

Severance Hospital was the first hospital in Korea to succeed in an LVAD transplantation in November last year. Since then the hospital has successfully performed six surgeries.


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