OSAKA — The patient who received a heart from a brain-dead donor in February left Osaka University Hospital Friday, 75 days after the operation — the first such transplant under the Organ Transplant Law of 1997.
The patient, identified only as a male resident of Osaka Prefecture in his 40s, no longer shows symptoms of the infection that delayed his release from the hospital for about a month, doctors at the institution said.
His discharge shows that the nation’s first heart transplant under the 1997 law — and the first since a controversial operation conducted by Sapporo Medical College Professor Juro Wada in 1968 — was a success. Doctors and transplant experts expressed hope that the move will serve as encouragement to patients awaiting heart transplants.
The heart recipient’s discharge from the hospital came two days after the second heart transplant under the new law was performed at the National Cardiovascular Center Hospital in Suita, Osaka Prefecture.
Meeting reporters prior to leaving the hospital, the discharged patient said, “I owe what I am today to the courageous decision of the donor” — a woman who was judged brain dead at Kochi Red Cross Hospital on Feb. 28. “I cannot thank the donor enough.”
The Kochi donor’s heart, liver, kidneys and corneas were transplanted to six patients nationwide, including the Osaka patient. Four recipients have been released from hospitals, while the liver recipient remains hospitalized at Shinshu University Hospital in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture.
The discharged patient said his condition is “pretty good” and added he hopes to “maintain good relations with” the transplanted heart. He also said he hopes to resume an ordinary social life in about six months.
The patient was to be discharged from the hospital in mid-April, but doctors discovered cytomegalovirus (CMV) genes in a blood sample, indicating growth of the virus.
Doctors treated the man, who had been infected with CMV prior to the transplant, with antiviral medication for about a month, according to Norihide Fukushima, a physician who participated in the Feb. 28-March 1 operation.
A blood sample taken earlier this week indicated the treatment was successful in suppressing the growth of CMV, and doctors informed the man that, from a medial point of view, he was able to leave the hospital, Fukushima said.
The patient will continue to visit the hospital every week to receive checkups for possible infection and signs of rejection.
He will need a daily dose of immunosuppressants and antiviral medications consisting of nine kinds of medicine, the doctor said, adding that he should avoid crowded places and eating raw food.