US doctors perform world’s first heart transplant between HIV positive donor and recipient

“This surgery is a milestone in the history of organ donation and offers new hope to people who once had nowhere to turn.”

Surgeons performing a heart transplant.
Image: Pexels

Doctors at New York’s Montefiore Health System have successfully performed the world’s first heart transplant where both the donor and the recipient were HIV positive. The patient who suffered from advanced heart failure received the life-saving treatment, along with a kidney transplant, in early Spring, and spent five weeks recovering in the Bronx-based hospital. The woman in her sixties now sees her transplant physicians for regular checkups and monitoring, but the procedure has been deemed a success.

The HIV Organ Policy Equity Act which came into play in 2013 made it possible for people living with HIV to donate their organs to HIV positive recipients. However, it has taken almost a decade for this opportunity to become a reality in terms of heart transplantation.

Montefiore is one of only 25 medical centres in the US eligible to offer and perform this surgery having previously met specific benchmarks and outcomes set by the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. The facility’s Heart Transplantation Team is world-renowned for its innovative methods, as demonstrated in this case.

“The goal of the Montefiore heart transplant team is to constantly push and establish new standards so that anyone who is appropriate for an organ transplant can benefit from this live-saving procedure,” said Daniel Goldstein, MD, a cardiothoracic expert in the centre.

Goldstein’s colleague Ulrich P Jorde, MD added to this, saying: “Thanks to significant medical advances, people living with HIV are able to control the disease so well that they can now save the lives of other people living with this condition. This surgery is a milestone in the history of organ donation and offers new hope to people who once had nowhere to turn.”

The patient’s cardiologist, Dr Omar Saeed, commented: “This was a complicated case and a true multidisciplinary effort by cardiology, surgery, nephrology, infectious disease, critical care and immunology.”

He continued: “Making this option available to people living with HIV expands the pool of donors and means more people, with or without HIV, will have quicker access to a lifesaving organ. To say we are proud of what this means for our patients and the medical community at large, is an understatement.”

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