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Science File

Heart Rebuilt to Avoid a Transplant

August 30, 2003|From Associated Press

To cut out a tumor and keep it from coming back, Baltimore surgeons removed a woman's heart and rebuilt its upper chambers with cow and human tissue in what doctors are calling the first operation of its kind.

University of Maryland Medical Center surgeons Dr. James Gammie and Dr. Bartley Griffith hope the procedure will enable other patients with heart tumors to avoid heart transplants.

A heart transplant may have cured the problem, but the surgeons said it is better for patients to keep their own hearts. That is because of the possibility of organ rejection, the need to take anti-rejection drugs, and a 50% average 10-year survival rate for heart transplant recipients.

Sandra Lanier, 46, of Ware, Mass., was diagnosed with a rare syndrome called Carney complex, a hereditary disorder that involves recurrent benign atrial tumors called myxomas. She had three previous operations.

The tumor was deep in Lanier's chest, so the surgeons removed her heart for several hours, as if they were doing a heart transplant. During that time, Lanier was connected to a heart-lung machine.

Her heart was placed in an ice bath, where it was worked on for about five and a half hours before being sewed back into her chest.

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