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1968: Surgeons conduct UK's first heart transplant
Britain's first heart transplant was successfully carried out today by a team of 18 doctors and nurses at the National Heart Hospital in Marylebone, London.

The operation, which was led by South African-born surgeon Donald Ross, was undertaken on an unnamed 45-year-old man.

It took more than seven hours to complete.

The donor, Patrick Ryan, a 26-year-old labourer, was transferred from King's College Hospital and his heart removed immediately after his death.

Recovering well

Reading from a prepared statement on the hospital steps, a spokesman said: "It has gone uneventfully. The patient, as far as we know, is satisfactory."

The man is said to be recovering well but his reaction to the implant over the next 10 to 14 days is expected to be critical.

Mr Ross, who was accompanied by the entire surgical team, said the operation lasted around two hours despite the fact they were working together for over seven hours.

The first sign the historic operation was about to take place came at 1150 GMT when Donald Longmore, the hospital's consultant in clinical physiology, was escorted by two police cars to King's College Hospital.

At 1330 GMT he drove back to the National Heart Hospital alongside an ambulance, which was carrying the donor and by 1400 GMT the initial stages of the operation were under way.

Reporters and photographers were camped outside the building as soon as rumours of the operation started to circulate.

The British operation is the tenth heart transplant to be undertaken in the world since Dr Christian Barnard carried out the first one in Cape Town, South Africa, last December.

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Heart transplant team appear onthe  steps of the National Heart Hospital in Marylebone, London
A team of 18 doctors took seven hours to finish the operation


In Context
Britain's first heart transplant patient, who was later named Frederick West, died 46 days after receiving the donor heart.

The hospital said he died from an "overwhelming infection" which he had been fighting for nine days.

He had been given a series of drugs to encourage the acceptance of the new heart but this lowered his resistance to infection and ultimately led to his death.

Mr West had also been suffering from kidney complications before he died.

After that, British surgeons adopted a cautious approach to heart surgery and only six more transplants were carried out in the UK over the next decade.

It wasn't until the 1980s that heart transplants became more common. Today around 300 heart transplant operations are carried out in the UK every year.

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