The heart has been described by many as the seat of the soul. Whether you agree with this statement or not, there is no denying that the heart is an essential organ. A pump the size of your fist circulates blood around your entire body and enables you to absorb oxygen and let go of carbon dioxide, that’s nothing short of miraculous if you think about it. What is even more miraculous, perhaps, is that we, human beings, have devised a way to replace that pump without the occurrence of death.
The world’s first heart transplant was performed half a century ago in South Africa followed by one in Australia a year later. Today around 3500 heart transplants are performed annually; the majority of heart transplants are performed in the United States of America. The two main procedures are the orthotopic and heterotopic heart transplant.
The orthotopic heart transplant is type you think of when you hear the words heart transplant. It’s the removal of a diseased heart from the body via an incision in the chest and its replacement with a healthy heart. The heterotopic procedure involves the addition of a heart to the original heart so that the latter can be supported by the former. The normal lifespan after a heart transplant is 15 years and the procedure is strictly performed to improve the quality of life of a patient and/or to save a life.