July 14, 2009

British Heart Transplant Patient Makes Full Recovery

A British girl who had undergone heart transplant surgery as an infant has reportedly made a full recovery just over three years since having the donor heart removed.

At age two, Hannah Clark had a transplant operation in which doctors grafted a donor heart onto her original one that had been failing due to muscle deterioration.

Doctors removed the transplanted heart 3-1/2 years ago after Hannah's immunosuppressant drugs resulted in a cancer known as EBV PTLD.

At that point in 2006, Hannah's original heart had recovered to its proper function. Now, with Hannah at age 16, her doctors reported that she has made a full recovery from cancer and now maintains normal heart function.

"The possibility of recovery of the heart is just like magic," said Magdi Yacoub, surgeon at Imperial College London and co-author of the study found in The Lancet Journal.

"Now we are a lot more confident (about this procedure)," Yacoub told Reuters.

"The heart muscle itself, which was not doing anything at all, has recovered."

After receiving chemotherapy, Hannah's transplanted heart began to fail, but doctors noticed a recovery in the function of her original organ.

"Thanks to this operation, I've now got a normal life just like all of my friends," said Clark.

"I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for any of this," she said.

Dr. Ileana Pina, a heart failure expert at Case Western Reserve University and spokeswoman for the American Heart Association, told the Associated Press that Hannah's story "reminds us that not all heart failure is lethal. Some heart failure patients have a greater chance of recovery than we thought."


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