Ground-Breaking Infant Heart Transplant Performed at Loma Linda University Medical Center Marks 25-Year Milestone

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Monday, October 26, marks the 25-year anniversary of the first neonatal cross-species heart transplant in history. Dr. Leonard Bailey and a team of doctors at Loma Linda University Medical Center transplanted the heart of a baboon into an infant, born with uniformly lethal heart disease and known to the world as “Baby Fae”, on October 26, 1984.

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Three states have tried, but thus far failed to establish a law that will allow babies who are born without a brain to become donors. There is still potential for cross species transplantation again.

Monday, October 26, marks the 25-year anniversary of the first neonatal cross-species heart transplant in history. Dr. Leonard Bailey and a team of doctors at Loma Linda University Medical Center transplanted the heart of a baboon into an infant, born with uniformly lethal heart disease and known to the world as “Baby Fae”, on October 26, 1984. Though she only lived 20 days following the operation, her legacy has extended the life of thousands of babies worldwide who would otherwise have died for lack of a functional heart.

“Much of what we learned from ‘Baby Fae’s’ operation we were able to apply to the first successful infant-to-infant heart transplant just over a year later in November 1985,” says Dr. Bailey, surgeon-in-chief at Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital (LLUCH). “’Baby Moses’ is now nearly 24-years-old and doing quite well.”

Since “Baby Fae’s” transplant in 1984, surgeons at LLUCH have performed heart transplants on 312 infants, meaning those 1-year-old and younger. LLUCH’s 500th pediatric heart transplant was performed just this year on July 8.                

“The ground-breaking work performed by Dr. Bailey and his team paved the way for the valuable knowledge we now have about infant heart transplantation,” says Zareh Sarrafian, the administrator of LLUCH. “’Baby Fae’s’ legacy lives on today in the thousands of children who enjoy productive lives throughout the world.”

As for what the next 25 years hold in infant heart transplantation, Dr. Bailey says there will be more artificial heart devices and, hopefully, more donors. “Three states have tried, but thus far failed to establish a law that will allow babies who are born without a brain to become donors. There is still potential for cross species transplantation again.”

Click here for pictures of “Baby Fae” and her surgery. Additionally, various events will be held throughout the year to mark the 25th anniversary, including the first public appearance from the mother of “Baby Fae” on October 31 as part of the centennial celebration of LLU School of Medicine. The Children’s Hospital Foundation Annual Gala, “Got Heart”, will feature some of the heart transplant patients on February 27, 2010. Also, tune into NBC Nightly News tonight for a look back on this historic surgery.

About Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital - LLUCH
The Children’s Hospital is the only dedicated children’s hospital in the vast geographic region of the San Bernardino, Riverside, Inyo and Mono counties. With 277 beds dedicated just for kids, one of the largest Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICU) in the country, and more than 100,000 children that come each year, LLUCH is a major pediatric teaching facility for Loma Linda University and is part of the Loma Linda University health care system. Known worldwide as the pioneer of neonatal heart transplantation, LLUCH has performed more infant heart transplants than any other center of its kind.

CONTACT:
Katie Ellis
Media Relations Specialist
Phone: 909-558-3747
E-mail: kaellis at llu dot edu

Herbert Atienza
Media Relations Specialist
Phone: 909-558-3457
E-mail: hatienza at llu dot edu

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