At first there didn’t seem to be anything unusual about the man who, in 2010, reported to a Verona, Italy emergency room. He was short of breath, sweating, and had low blood pressure – cardiovascular trouble, no doubt. E.R. doctors see similar symptoms all the time.
But this man was very different indeed. He had two hearts.
“We haven’t ever seen anything similar to this case before,” Dr. Giacomo Mugnai said in an email.
It turned out that a few years earlier, the man had undergone a procedure known as a heterotopic heart transplant. Unlike an orthotopic transplant, in which one organ is removed and another put in its place, a heterotopic transplant pairs a new organ with a diseased one.
“We see this in cardiac patients or kidney patients, sometimes,” explained Dr. Rade Vukmir, professor of emergency medicine at Temple University and a spokesman for the American College of Emergency Physicians. “Surgeons might leave a kidney in place if it’s too much trouble to take out, or if there is hope for recovery of a kidney, or a heart, after a period of time” of being helped by the new organ.
In the case of the ailing Italian, reported in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, the transplant team had mated his new heart with his malfunctioning old one. Chambers and blood vessels of the two hearts were married so that the new heart could support the old one….