While performing a transplant surgery, doctors realized that the donor organ was too small for the 56 year-old patient. The heart was donated from a brain-dead teenager.
‘Piggyback transplant is when the patient's diseased heart is left in place while the donor's heart is added giving the person two hearts.’
Cardiothoracic surgeon A Gopala Krishna Gokhale connected the healthy heart to the old failing organ during a seven-hour operation at Apollo Hospital in Hyderabad.
His normal second heart, which is fist-sized, now sits between the right lung and the original heart, described as "the size of a small football".
"Two hearts in the patient complement each other to facilitate circulation, but beat at different rates," said Dr Gokhale.
The patient's blood pressure returned to near-normal levels after the operation but he now has two pulses and a complex electrocardiogram pattern.
Piggyback Heart Transplant
Piggyback transplant or the heterotopic heart transplant is a rare procedure where the recipient's diseased heart is left in place to support the donor heart.
Sometimes, during a heart transplant, simply replacing the ailing heart with a donor's heart may not ensure normal functioning of the heart. This is because the new heart could not adjust fast enough to handle the excess pressure built up in the lungs and it may fail.
One way the heart surgeon can do is to link the existing heart with a donor's heart. In this so-called piggyback heart transplant, the surgeon inserts the new heart to the right side of the chest and attaches it parallel to the patient's own heart. The 2 upper chambers on the left side of each heart must be lined up so that they could be merged.
Worldwide only about 150 such procedures have ever been reported.
Piggyback heart transplants were pioneered by Christiaan Barnard in South Africa in the 1970s and the average survival for the procedure is ten years.