AGH doctors finish first dual transplant

63-year-old given new heart, kidney in 10-hour surgery

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As part of its continuing effort to revive and expand its organ transplant program, Allegheny General Hospital has performed its first-ever dual organ transplant.

The hospital announced yesterday that it gave a 63-year-old local man a new heart and kidney in a 10-hour surgery on Aug. 30. Both organs are functioning well, and the man, who asked not to be identified, is currently in a rehabilitation facility, said Dr. Raymond Benza, medical director of Allegheny General's heart transplant program.

The patient was suffering from cardiomyopathy, or weakness of the heart, and his poor blood flow in turn had caused significant damage to his kidneys.

One advantage of doing both transplants together is that the patient is much less likely to reject his new heart if he gets a new kidney at the same time. Researchers aren't sure why that happens, Dr. Benza said, but it may be because the person's own kidneys are repositories for immune system cells that are involved in organ rejection.

The other reason for doing a heart-kidney transplant, Dr. Benza said, is that better surgical techniques allow transplanted hearts to function more quickly, which provides a strong immediate blood supply to the transplanted kidney.

The West Penn Allegheny Health System hopes this procedure will be the first of many double-organ transplants, he said, including more heart-kidney surgeries along with heart-liver and heart-lung transplants.

In the past several months, the hospital has boosted both its lung transplant and liver transplant programs, adding to the heart transplant tradition it already had, and offering another alternative to UPMC for organ transplants in this region.

Heart-kidney transplants often involve transplanting the heart one day and the kidney the next morning, but in this case, the heart functioned so well that the patient only had to wait for a few hours before going back in for the kidney to be implanted.

For the patient, it was a life-saving operation, Dr. Benza said, because his heart failure was so severe he couldn't walk more than 50 feet without being out of breath.

Mark Roth can be reached at or at 412-263-1130.


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