Leading cardiac surgeon believes heart transplants will be discarded 'within 10 years' in favour of artificial pumps and stem cells

December 6, 2017  17:55

Heart transplants could be discarded within a decade, a leading cardiac surgeon believes.

As The Daily Mail reports, professor Stephen Westaby, of Oxford's John Radcliffe Hospital, made the comment on the 50th anniversary of the first human heart transplant.

He thinks it is time to replace the conventional method with artificial pumps and pioneering stem cell therapy.

What does Professor Westaby think? 

Professor Westaby, who was the first surgeon to fit a patient with a new kind of artificial heart in 2000, told The Sun: 'I am a great supporter of cardiac transplantation.

'Some patients live for 20 years with excellent quality of life, but we can only treat one per cent of people.

'How does a society value a treatment that needs another young person to die first and is applicable to less than one per cent of those who might benefit?

'I think within ten years we won’t see anymore heart transplants, except for people with congenital heart damage, where only a new heart will do.

'I think the combination of heart pumps and stem cells has the potential to be a good alternative which could help far more people.'

Heart transplants: The facts 

As many as 200 heart transplants are carried out on adults in the UK each year, according to official statistics.

But an estimated 1,300 men, women and children die every year waiting for a new organ, according to the British Heart Foundation.

Figures released by the charity also show that the number of people on the waiting list for a new heart has nearly trebled in a decade.

Waiting lists 

Patients are added onto a waiting list if they are deemed for suitable for such an operation to replace their faulty heart.

Once placed in such a queue, it could take days, months or even years before a healthy donor organ is found.

One fifth of such patients never get the organ they so desperately need, while half manage to get one within three years.

The first ever heart transplant 

Dr Christiaan Barnard defied doubters to perform the first ever heart transplant 50 years ago last week in Cape Town on Louis Washkansky.

The procedure prompted a medical revolution that meant heart conditions were no longer considered a death sentence.

However, Mr Washkansky, 54, died nine days later from pneumonia, thought to have been caused by the immune system-suppressing drugs he was given. 

Dr Barnard's second attempt at the procedure in 1968 was more successful, with patient Philip Blaiberg surviving 19 months.  

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