Sex of Donor Plays Role in Heart Transplant Survival

Last week at an American Heart Association conference, Dr. Eric Weiss presented the results of a research study dealing with heart transplants. Weiss reported that the sex of a heart donor plays a role in the survival rate of the recipient.

Dr. Eric Weiss is a surgeon at John Hopkins University, which is located in Baltimore. Recently, Weiss analyzed a database of more than 18,000 people, which was provided by the United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS.) This data included patients who have received heart transplants over the last ten years. His study compared their medical records since their surgery, taking into account their lifestyle and reason for the transplant.

Using this data, Weiss found that recipients who received a heart from someone of the same sex were mere likely to survive than those who received a heart from members of the opposite sex. The study found that women who received a male heart were at the highest risk of mortality, with a twenty percent higher mortality rate than men who received male hearts.

The reason that sex plays a role is not known for certain, but there are several hypothesis. The size of the heart, which is larger in men, might play a part as could the difference in the male and female chromosome.

Weiss, who reported his findings on November 12, 2009, found that a patient receiving a heart from a member of the same sex was 25% less likely to die in the 30 days following the heart transplant. They were also 20% less likely to die in the first year after the transplant.

Weiss has stated that while the sex of the donor and recipient seem to be important, he does no abdicate waiting for a same-sex heart to receive a transplant. Instead, he states that it is better to receive any heart, then to wait and risk catastrophic heart failure, but whenever possible the sex should be matched.

The first human heart transplant was preformed by Dr. James Hardy in 1964. Hardy implanted a chimpanzee heart into a man who was dying. The heart lasted for seventy minutes before failing. Several years later, in 1967, Christiaan Barnard preformed the first human to human heart transplant. This time the heart lasted for eighteen days, before the patient died due to pneumonia.

Today, more than 2200 people receive heart transplants every year. The life expectancy of someone who has received a heart transplant has greatly increased since the sixties. The longest living heart transplant recipient was named Tony Huesman. Huesman received a heart when he was twenty years old and died twenty-nine years later in 2007.

An Australian named Fiona Coote, who received a heart transplant in 1984 at the age of 14 is now the longest living heart transplant recipient. It has been 24 years since her transplant.

Today, there is a more than 80% survival rate during the first year after a transplant. This rate is slightly higher in males. More than 70% of male heart transplant recipients live longer than 5 years, with about 65% of women surviving more than 5 years.

More than 2000 people receive heart transplants every year and of these, about 75% are male.

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