But there is, I think, every reason to hope that it’s really going to be a groundbreaking advance for a subset of children that don’t otherwise have good options.Dr. Kathleen Fenton, chief of the Advanced Technologies and Surgery Branch of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, discussing a new study confirming that the first ever partial heart transplant continues to yield success more than a year after the operation.
Why It Matters: In 2022, 18-day-old Owen Monroe received a partial heart transplant, becoming the world’s first person to receive such a surgery (at the time, his heart was about the size of a strawberry). At 20 months old, doctors released a study following up on Owen’s groundbreaking operation and report success; CNN explains, “the new valves and blood vessels have kept up with his growth, which means unlike most children born with the same defect, he may not need to have more risky heart surgeries throughout his life.”
The Big Picture: Since Owen’s procedure, 12 other children have received a partial heart transplant. The new medical procedure also enables “domino transplants” and split-root transplants, in which one donor heart can “save the lives of two critically ill infants” (CNN). The groundbreaking work reflected in Owen’s surgery has gained widespread attention, even being represented in an episode of medical drama TV series “Grey’s Anatomy.”
by Emily Hooker, based in Texas