More than 2,000 people get heart transplants each year in the United States at an average cost of $260,000.
To make matters more complicated, up to 20 percent of those on the list for a transplant will likely die while waiting, according to HopkinsMedicine.org.
Now, patients may have another option, as 57-year-old Maryland man has made medical history.
The man, David Bennett (white shirt in the photo above), had terminal heart disease, and the pig heart was deemed as “the only currently available option” according to a press release and shared in an article by CNN.com.
Bennett was proclaimed by doctors to be ineligible for a conventional heart transplant or an artificial heart pump after reviews of his medical records were conducted.
“It was either die or do this transplant. I want to live. I know it’s a shot in the dark, but it’s my last choice,” Bennett said.
The surgery was given the greenlight by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on December 31 through an emergency authorization according to CNN.com.
As part of the procedure, three genes responsible for the rejection of pig organs by human immune systems are removed from the donor pig. Another gene is also taken out to prevent excessive pig heart tissue growth.
Six human genes that govern immune acceptance were also inserted.
Now, the man’s doctors will monitor him for several days if not weeks to see how he responds.
The hope is that the procedure can provide an alternate treatment for people on waiting lists, or with no other options.
Currently, 17 people die each day waiting for an organ according to organdonor.org. The U.S. has a serious shortage of organ donors according to the article as well.
“There are simply not enough donor human hearts available to meet the long list of potential recipients,” surgeon Dr. Bartley P. Griffith said in a statement.
“We are proceeding cautiously, but we are also optimistic that this first-in-the-world surgery will provide an important new option for patients in the future.”