A new heart, 39 years now and counting
It's often heard that the first successful heart transplant was a notable step given in the medicine field.
It was precisely a day like today, December 3, but in the year 1967, when such surgery took place at the Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa. The operation was performed by Dr. Christiaan Barnard, and the recipient patient was a 55 year old man named Louis Washkansky. Unfortunately, this patient only lived for eighteen days after the operation, passing away for reasons that were not related to the heart transplant.
The performance of this surgery rocketed Dr. Barnard's fame, making him one of the best remembered surgeons of all times. Also, it opened new horizons for the medicine and surgery fields: After that transplant, Barnard was able to perform several further similar procedures, being successful in all of them.
But the evolution of heart transplants has gone further than that. A lot of improvements have been made to the procedures related to such practices, adding new technologies and knowledge to the whole process; this has allowed to boost the prognosis of success on the surgery. In recent years, the prognosis is estimated to be 72% of chances for male patients and 68.5% for female patients to still be alive 5 years after the transplant.
One of the most notable changes that have been adapted to the most recent procedures was the practice known as the "Living Organ" transplant, in which instead of freezing the donor's heart after injecting potassium chloride into the organ, the heart is connected to a machine called Organ Care System. This machine helps the heart to keep beating with fresh blood through it at its normal temperature without the need of utilizing the potassium chloride nor the ice. This procedure helps to maintain in good conditions the organ for much longer than the freezing method as well.
What new wonders will arise in medicine? Who'll know...?