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HomeNews ReportsUnited States: Man who received pig heart in groundbreaking transplant dies after 2 months

United States: Man who received pig heart in groundbreaking transplant dies after 2 months

David Bennett Sr, 57, a patient of severe heart ailment, had his heart replaced with that of a pig's in January this year after he was rejected from many waiting lists to receive a human heart.

A man in the United States who got his failing heart replaced by that of a genetically altered pig died on Tuesday afternoon at the University of Maryland, two months after the groundbreaking transplant.

David Bennett Sr, 57, a patient of severe heart ailment, had his heart replaced with that of a pig’s in January this year after he was rejected from many waiting lists to receive a human heart.

The historic surgery, which took place on January 7, underwent successfully as the doctors were able to replace Bennett’s heart with that of an experimental pig’s. He was recovering since. However, his health began deteriorating in the last few days and the hospital announced his death on Wednesday.

The University of Maryland Medical Center said the cause of Bennett’s death is not clear yet. Hospital spokeswoman Deborah Kotz said there was no obvious cause at the time of his death, adding that researchers are planning to conduct a thorough review of his death and publish the results in a peer-reviewed journal.

“We are devastated by the loss of Mr Bennett. He proved to be a brave and noble patient who fought all the way to the end. We extend our sincerest condolences to his family,” said Dr Bartley Griffith, the surgeon who led Bennett’s transplant. “Mr Bennett became known by millions of people around the world for his courage and steadfast will to live.”

Although the transplant was deemed successful initially and Mr Bennett’s body did not reject the pig heart for the first thirty days—a critical milestone for the transplant patients, things started to deteriorate in the second month. Even so, his surgery was not completely without risks. The patient was fully informed of the procedure’s risks and also that the procedure was experimental with unknown risks and benefits.

Mr Bennett had been admitted to the hospital six weeks before he got his heart transplanted. He was suffering from life-threatening arrhythmia and was connected to a heart-lung bypass machine to remain alive. In addition to not qualifying to be on the transplant list, he was also deemed ineligible for an artificial heart pump due to his arrhythmia.

A heart arrhythmia is a disease where the patient suffers from irregular heartbeats. Heart rhythm problems occur when the electrical signals that coordinate the heart’s beats don’t work properly. The faulty signalling causes the heart to beat too fast, too slow or irregularly.

However, Dr Griffith was optimistic that Mr Bennett’s body would be able to accept the pig’s heart, heralding a significant step of scientific progress in heart transplants.

“We are proceeding cautiously, but we are also optimistic that this first-in-the-world surgery will provide an important new option for patients in the future”, Dr Griffith had then said.

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