The All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) did its 50th heart transplant on October 28, 22 years after India’s first transplantation was done here in 1994.
The pace picked up this year, as 13 of the 50 transplantations were done this year.
“Thirteen is the highest number performed in a year and 2016 hasn’t ended yet. Awareness among people, coordination among doctors and crucial help from state officials, police and airport authorities are key factors,” said Dr MC Misra, director of AIIMS.
A 42-year-old man, who was operated a day before Diwali, received the heart of a 35-year-old road traffic accident victim who died at the hospital’s Trauma Centre.
AIIMS has done the highest number of transplantations in a public hospital. Fortis Malar in Chennai has done 122 transplantations, the highest in India.
“There have been only almost 60 heart transplants in government hospitals – 50 at AIIMS, four at Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences in Hyderabad, three at Army Research and Referral Hospital in Delhi and two at Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in Chandigarh,” said Dr Balram Airan, chief of Cardiothoracic Centre (CTC) at AIIMS.
At AIIMS, seven of the 13 hearts transplanted were from outside the state. “Four hearts came from Indore, and one each from Pune, Chandigarh and Jaipur. This was possible only because of good coordination between doctors, state authorities, traffic police and airport officials,” said Dr Misra.
However, the doctors still face several challenges when it comes to heart transplantation.
“The conversion rate at our hospital is very low – maybe just 0.1%, i.e. the family of only 1 in 1,000 brain dead patient agrees to donate organs. Many family members refuse citing religious beliefs or myths like the person would be born without organs in the next life,” said Dr Sandeep Seth, assistant professor of cardiology at CTC.
“Even if one person objects, we do not touch any organs because it is a sensitive issue and may lead to a dispute in future,” he said.
But in several other hospitals the relatives of brain dead patients are not even asked for organ donation. “After the treating doctor has declared someone to be brain dead, a committee has to review it twice at an interval of six hours. This is a time-consuming process and many hospitals don’t do it. Now, the government has made it mandatory for it to be reported and higher authorities notified for the availability of organs,” said Dr Airan.