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Doctors perform world’s first multi-organ transplant on LVAD patient

Houston, TX - 8/5/2005

A 42-year-old Houston oilrig worker became the world’s first heart assist device patient to undergo a multi-organ transplant Wednesday, replacing organs damaged by a rare blood disease.

Garry Davis, who was kept alive for two months with an artificial heart pump, is in good condition and talking with family and friends at The Methodist Hospital after undergoing a 12-hour transplant surgery to replace his heart and liver.

Davis, husband and father of six, was diagnosed in May with hemochromatosis, a rare blood condition that develops when too much iron builds up in a person’s body, and can cause severe organ damage. The disease, when caught early, is treated by periodically removing about two cups of blood from the body to deplete the excess iron.

However, when Davis arrived at Methodist, his disease had progressed to the extent that his heart needed an LVAD, a device implanted in the chest to help a weakened heart pump blood throughout the body.

"Iron deposits in his heart muscle were causing the heart to stop working. The LVAD took over the pump function of his heart," said Dr. Matthias Loebe, heart transplant surgeon at the Methodist DeBakey Heart Center. "Without the LVAD, Mr. Davis would not have lived. It is very rare that this disease leads to the need for transplant."

The liver is the most common organ damaged by hemochromatosis, but Davis’ heart was in such poor condition due to the disease that doctors first implanted the LVAD before performing a liver biopsy. Doctors determined from results of the biopsy that Davis also needed a liver transplant.

"While it is rare to see patients who need both a heart and liver transplant, surgeons at Methodist have experience in this procedure," said Dr. John Goss, liver transplant surgeon at Methodist. "It is unusual for a hospital to have the resources to transplant both organs at one time, so we are fortunate to able to provide the service to Mr. Davis."

This complex surgery requires heart and liver transplant teams to plan ahead of time and work closely together. Each transplant team took turns in the operating room to perform the two transplants. First, Dr. Loebe and his team removed the LVAD from Davis’ heart, which takes 4 hours, and then in another 4-hour procedure, he performed the heart transplant surgery. Once Davis was off the heart pump and had a new transplanted heart, Dr. Goss’ team performed the 4-hour liver transplant surgery.