Thursday, October 1, 1998 Published at 12:03 GMT 13:03 UK
Serial heart operation could be world first
Third-hand transplants are another new frontier in transplant surgery
A man has received a third-hand heart in what is believed to be the first serial transplant operation.
Italian surgeons originally transplanted the heart of a Swiss woman into the body of a 52-year-old Italian woman.
The heart was put in cold storage (known as cold ischaemia), which halts the blood flow, for over three hours before the operation.
The woman appeared to make good progress and did not reject her new heart.
However, five days after the operation in August, one of the arteries in her brain became swollen and burst.
She died, but, as there was nothing wrong with the heart, surgeons decided they could re-use it.
They put it in cold storage again for one and a half hours, meaning it had withstood around five hours of cold aeschemia.
Previously, surgeons have recommended that hearts being used for transplant should be stored for no more than four hours.
The team, led by surgeon Antonio Gambino, then transplanted the heart into the man who is now doing well.
The man also received heart tissue from the Italian woman, meaning that his body has had to accept tissue from two different donors.
Surgeons are watching how his immune system reacts.