HeadLine: Docs cut my heart out to save my life
by Daily Record, 22/05/1998, p24
by Shaun Milne
Surgeons took out a student’s heart for up to six hours, operated on it
then repaired the organ with pig and cow tissue.
The heart was put back in Guy Altmann’s chest and, just three weeks
later, he is back home after strolling out of hospital.
The historic, life-saving operation successfully removed a tumour the
size of a lemon.
Guy was kept on special life-support machines during the surgery.
The softly-spoken 20-year-old said yesterday: “I feel a lot better than
when I went in to hospital.”
Chemicals were used to stop the heart and it was removed and cooled
Surgeons cut away the tumour which was popping in and out of one of the
heart valves with every beat.
The damaged valve was replaced by one made of pig tissue.
The spot where the tumour had been attached was rebuilt using cardiac
tissue from a cow.
Dr Michael Reardon helped perform the six-hour operation in Houston,
He said Guy, of Covington, Louisiana, would probably have died by now
without the surgery.
It is thought to be the first time a patient with a malignant tumour
has survived the surgery.
About six months of therapy lie ahead, along with the possibility of
chemotherapy to fight any cancerous cells left behind.
Despite the rigours, Guy said he was eager to get on with his studies.
It has been a difficult few years for Guy.
He has also bravely endured two other major illnesses, a stroke –
possibly caused by the tumour – and debilitating weakness in his legs
from steroid treatments.
Kenneth McArthur, a paediatric cardiology surgeon at the Western
Infirmary in Glasgow, praised the doctors involved.
He said: “It is actually easier to remove a tumour with the heart on a
bench than from within the body.
“But the tricky part involves the repair work – replacing the valve,
repairing the chamber walls.
“That would need a great deal of skilled craftsmanship.”
He added: “It is not very difficult to take a heart out and put it back
in. That goes on fairly regularly.
“But this operation could well have been a first.”
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