In Groningen, a 35-year-old woman received a new heart and a new liver from the same donor in one operation, reports the university medical center (UMCG). It is the first time that these two organs have been transplanted in the same operation, according to the hospital. A team of seventeen medical specialists and thirty support staff needed about 24 hours for the complex operation, which took years to prepare.

    The woman is doing well, let the UMCG know, and has started her rehabilitation. The patient has a serious congenital heart defect: the right part of her heart is missing. She has had several heart surgeries, but her liver is also affected by the condition. In patients like her, this leads to fluid retention and shortness of breath, and in almost all cases to death when they are between 30 and 40 years old. According to the UMCG, there are a few hundred people with the condition in the Netherlands.

    A double transplant is a lot more favorable than when a patient first receives a new heart and later a new liver, explains a spokeswoman for the UMCG. Those who receive a new heart must take medication for the rest of their lives to ensure that the body does not reject the foreign organ. If the patient also needs a new liver some time later, it is very difficult to find one that exactly matches the medication that the patient is already taking. Placing a new liver preventively is also not possible, because so many donors are not available. Only people who urgently need a new organ are eligible for a transplant.

    Complex, almost 24-hour operation

    The operation lasted almost 24 hours and seventeen medical specialists and more than thirty support staff worked on it. Years of preparation preceded the operation. The operation, according to one of the surgeons, was very complex. Not only the heart of the woman, but also the way in which that organ was located in the body was different, making it difficult to properly connect the new ‘normal’ heart. The patient says that the organs have given him a “second life”.

    In the transplant center in Groningen, combined transplants are more often performed, such as those of a heart and a lung. According to the spokeswoman, the hospital cannot say exactly when the transplant of the heart and liver was carried out, because the patient and the donor’s next of kin can then be traced back to each other.