First Human Heart Transplant

The first human heart transplant was performed on December 3, 1967. The operation was led by a surgeon named Christiaan Barnard, in Groote Schuur Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa. At the time, it was one of the most widely publicised events in the world. Louis Washkansky was the recipient of the heart. The donor was Denise Darvall, a 25-year-old woman who had been fatally injured in a car accident. Technically, this event was not the first heart transplant, because, in 1964, Boyd Rush received the heart of a chimpanzee, though he survived for just an hour and did not regain consciousness.

Christiaan Barnard’s technique had been originally developed by a group of American researchers during the 1950s. The landmark surgery was deemed successful, with the recipient not only regaining consciousness but also speaking to people. However, Louis Washkansky was given immunosuppressants to ensure that his new heart would not be rejected by his body. This also left him susceptible to illness and as a result, he died 18 days later from pneumonia. The transplantation was not a failure though, as Washkansky’s heart had continued to function normally until his death.

Even today, heart transplantation is considered to be major surgery with many factors affecting the lifespan of the recipient. These include the recipient’s health, underlying health conditions, diet and more.

Frequently Asked Questions on first human heart transplant

When was the first human heart transplant?

The first human heart transplant was carried out on December 3, 1967.

Who was given the first heart transplant and why?

Louis Washkansky was the recipient of the heart. He was terminally ill due to a failing heart, and hence, was given the transplantation.

Is the first heart transplant patient still alive?

Louis Washkansky was the first heart transplant patient. Unfortunately, he died 18 days after the transplantation due to pneumonia.

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