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Number Of Heart Transplant Centers Growing Despite Donor Shortage

April 25, 1985

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) _ As many as 90 hospitals will be doing heart transplants a year from now, despite a government prediction that only 400 donor hearts will become available each year, surgeons said Wednesday.

The shortage of donor hearts may become even more acute in succeeding years, with 500 hospitals expressing some interest in beginning to do heart transplants sometime during the next five years, the surgeons said.

The remarks were made at a conference on heart replacement held in Louisville under the sponsorship of the Humana Heart Institute International, where three artificial hearts have been implanted since November.

At that conference, Dr. Leonard Bailey, the surgeon who put a baboon heart in the infant known as Baby Fae, said he is preparing for another such operation, but that he would not be ready for at least a month.

He said he is still collecting and analyzing data on the experiment with Baby Fae, who received the animal heart Oct. 26 and lived with it for 20 days before dying from problems associated with her kidneys and with rejection of the transplanted heart.

Bailey said he is also revising his procedures for the next animal heart transplant in accordance with suggestions made by the National Institutes of Health.

Among the changes will be a requirement that Bailey seek a human donor heart immediately before transplanting a baboon heart into an infant.

Bailey was criticized at the time of the Baby Fae operation for assuming that no infant human donor heart was available and consequently not requesting such a heart from organ procurement agencies.

Dr. Magdi Yacoub of the Harefield Hospital in Middlefield, England, who has transplanted a human heart into a 7-day-old infant, said he was lucky to find an infant heart. ″It is quite difficult, though not impossible,″ he said.

With regard to the growing interest in doing heart transplants, Dr. Bartley Griffith, a heart transplant surgeon at the University of Pittsburgh, said that 30 centers are now doing heart transplants in the United States, and another 20 would be doing them by the end of the year.

Government studies have shown that it will be difficult to get more than 400 donors per year, he said, meaning an average of eight donors will be available for each heart transplant center.

″Nobody learns anything doing eight,″ he said.

Dr. Jack Copeland, the University of Arizona surgeon who implanted an artificial heart for 11 hours earlier this year while waiting for a donor human heart, said he expected the number of centers doing heart transplant by a year from now to reach 90.

He said there are as many as 20,000 potential heart donors each year.

Copeland said he has been training for the implantation of the Jarvik-7 artificial heart. He expects to complete his training early next month at Symbion, the Salt Lake City company that manufactures the heart.

He expects then to seek approval from the Food and Drug Administration to implant the hearts, and he is optimistic that he will get it.

″I have the feeling that the FDA would like not to be involved in emergency situations,″ like the one in which the Phoenix artificial heart was used earlier this year, Copeland said.

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