Newborn baby receives world’s first partial heart transplant

DURHAM, N.C. (WECT/Gray News) – A newborn baby in North Carolina received the first known partial heart transplant.

According to Duke Health, living arteries and valves from a donated heart were fused into a baby’s heart on April 22.

Duke officials said the surgery was performed on Owen Monroe, a 5-pound newborn.

“As harrowing of an experience as it was for our family, we knew from the beginning that Owen was in the best hands,” said Nick Monroe, Owen’s father.

WECT reports Owen’s family is from Leland, North Carolina, but the baby was born at Duke after his parents learned that he had a condition called truncus arteriosus, in which his two main heart arteries were fused together.

Duke Health said one of Monroe’s vessels was also equipped with a leaky valve, making it unlikely he could survive the wait for a full heart transplant.

According to the medical team, this scenario usually calls for preserved cadaver arteries with valves, but the non-living tissue requires repeated open-heart surgeries to be replaced as the person grows up. But by transplanting living tissue, the heart will grow over time as usual without needing those follow-up surgeries.

A partial transplant reportedly allows for portions of a heart to be used that would otherwise not be viable for a full transplant.

“Our greatest hope is that Owen’s success story will change the way organ donation and transplants are handled not only for congenital heart disease babies but for all patients,” Nick Monroe said.