Royal Papworth Hospital marks heart transplant anniversary

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Royal Papworth

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Royal Papworth hospital is marking 40 years of heart transplants

A hospital is marking 40 years since its first heart transplant operation.

That first procedure at the Royal Papworth Hospital, overseen by surgeon Sir Terence English, was carried out on a 44-year-old patient with heart disease on 14 January 1979.

Since then, some 1,500 patients have undergone heart transplants at the Cambridge hospital.

The unit is set to move later this year to the new Cambridge biomedical campus on the outskirts of the city.

Only a handful of other centres in the world were carrying out the life-saving procedure when Papworth began performing heart transplants in 1979.

The first heart transplant in the UK took place at the National Heart Hospital in May 1968 – and was unsuccessful.

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Sir Terence English

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Sir Terence English carried out the first heart transplants at the now Royal Papworth

The first Papworth recipient died 17 days later, after developing a brain injury. However, the dramatic effect of providing a patient in terminal heart failure with a normal, functioning heart had been proven.

Surgeons went on to carry out the world’s first successful heart, lung and liver transplant at Papworth in 1986.

The hospital has put much of its later current success rate down to the development of the Donation after Circulatory Death programme (DCD), which it says has enabled more than 50 patients to receive hearts from donors that would otherwise not have been used.

Heart transplant expert Dr Clive Lewis said the 40-year milestone was a “fantastic achievement”, “especially given the difficulties Sir Terence English encountered in those early days.”

“We should also remember the amazing gift of life given by so many donor families during the most difficult circumstances.”

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Royal Papworth Hospital

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Papworth is described as a “centre of excellence with a pioneering spirit”

The second heart transplant recipient at Papworth, Keith Castle, lived for more than five years after his operation, performed by Sir Terence in August 1979.

Four of the first six patients went on to live for between three to eight years.

Dr Lewis said the hospital “continues to be a centre of excellence with a pioneering spirit”.