The Drama of the first heart transplantation in Germany: The Patient, who lived only 27 hours

It is a breakthrough and a defeat was at the same time. 50 years ago the first heart transplant in Germany, managed a Team led by the Munich-based doctor Rudolf Zenker. The Operation was run in a “program”, reported Zenker shortly thereafter. The stranger’s heart had been placed in the patient’s chest successfully. But 27 hours later, the Patient was dead. Zenker joined short before the press and read out a statement. He called the organ transplant was a failure and left the room.

Nevertheless, the 13. February 1969 was a historic date for the German transplantation medicine. The first breakthrough Christiaan Barnard in Cape town, South Africa, on 3 was. December 1967 succeeded, as he transplanted the world’s first heart. International had prepared several Teams on the step, the Barnard, the first dared. His first Patient survived only 18 days.

The heart had been damaged in the accident

“It was all very early,” says Bruno Reichart, 1971 assistant Zenker and mid-1980s in Cape town, the successor of Barnard. A prerequisite for transplantation, the development of the heart-lung machine. However, the options in the OP as well as in the diagnosis were compared to today, limited. “You have to give the step great respect, that you made it,” says Reichart. The Doctors had done nothing wrong. You are eminently prepared. “It was a bitter pill for them is not difficult. You don’t have to talk about,” he recalls.

The surgeon Werner Klinner and Fritz Sebening with a roughly 30-strong Team Zenkers management had planned the OP meticulously. The 36-year-old Patient was terminally ill. The complicated surgery was successful. But the strangers of the heart not pumping correctly. It was from a fatally injured 39-Year-old and was for the Doctors at the time not ascertained, were injured in the accident. The post-mortem after the failed Operation revealed that it had formed a small tear in the posterior coronary artery, a blood clot that led to the death of heart patients.

The Munich-based heart surgeon, Rudolf Zenker and representatives of the press: The 36-year-old Patient, the heart of a 39-Year-old has been transplanted, survived the engagement only a few hours

Between Barnard’s first Operation, and the Munich-based intervention worldwide, 100 hearts had been transplanted. The results were devastating. Only one Patient, operated on by Barnard, suffered the anniversary of the OP. “The first heart transplants did not trigger a wave of Organ transplants, which were, however, all long-term success,” says the President of the German society for thoracic, heart and vascular surgery (DGTHG), Wolfgang Harringer.

Devastating, first results

In Germany, the second and the third Patient died after the transplant. “The experiences were not the same for the other: that it worked,” says Reichart. In particular, the medicines against the rejection of the foreign Organs were not fully developed.

Very few Doctors, among them Barnard, and the American surgeon Norman Shumway, continued to operate, with easy-to-increasing success. The most troubled. “The resources for operations were scarce. Many said: Let’s do this, where is the greatest Need,” explains Reichart the mood. In some hospitals, a Moratorium was.

In Germany, a Team led by the Munich-based surgeon Sebening handle after a year-long break in may 1981 at the German heart centre as the first back to the scalpel. New drugs, which are no longer blocked to prevent the rejection of the entire immune system, have brought better results. Other heart centers ventured on the engagement.

In 1983, the first heart-lung Transplantation in Germany, in Reichert in Munich. In 1997, he transplanted for the first time, the nationwide heart, lung, and liver at the same time. This patient lived for eleven years – a sign of the progress in transplantation medicine.

Patients can now survive for decades with a donor heart

Meanwhile, the heart transplantation is a recognised treatment for seriously ill people. According to the German organ transplantation Foundation (DSO) transplant Doctors in Germany per year of the 300 the heart. Since 1963, more than 13,000 hearts were transplanted. After three years, 70 percent of the heart in the receiver, after ten years, 60 percent beat according to studies. Many patients survive for decades. A sensation of extreme athlete Elmar Sprink, lives since 2012, with the donor heart, and since then, four Times an Ironman was the race completed.

Till today, many patients die before they get an Organ. The waiting list is long. More than 700 people hope, according to the DSO in Germany to a heart. Federal Minister of health, Jens Spahn (CDU) wants to increase the number of donor organs with new legal regulations. Also, Doctors are calling for new ways. “We are clearly in favour of the opposition solution in the context of organ donation, how it is regulated, for example already in Austria, by law,” says the heart surgeon and DGTHG-President Harringer.

Option Animal The Heart?

So far, the human heart is not replaceable. An artificial heart, the drive, the Patient as a suitcase support must, as a transitional solution. Hopes rested early on, on a different solution: animal heart. Doctors experimented unsuccessfully with a monkey heart.

Promising research with genetically engineered pig hearts, which drives Reichart. He and his Team have achieved a milestone: A baboon with a pig’s heart survived half a year before the experiment was terminated. Until the first pig’s heart can beat in a human, but will take years. Clinical studies could begin, according to Reichart, at the earliest, in three years – a hope for patients in the distant future.