Man Receives Previously Transplanted Heart

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A civil engineer received a used heart that had been transplanted once before into a man who suffered non-heart-related complications during the procedure, hospital officials said Monday.

Mike Iwuchukwu, 45, who had a rare heart condition, received the organ in March at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. So far, there's no sign of rejection of the organ, doctors said.

Doctors were notified by the transplant donor network serving Southern California that a used heart was available and decided to transplant it into Iwuchukwu.

There have been previous cases of patients receiving used hearts, but it's considered uncommon, said Dr. J. David Vega of Emory University Hospital, who chairs the thoracic organ transplant committee of the United Network for Organ Sharing.

Few recipients receive a heart that had been previously transplanted mainly because it increases the risk of rejection by the body.

In addition, transplanting the same organ twice can weaken the heart muscle and make the operation more labor-intensive for doctors.

Iwuchukwu, from the Pasadena area, was first placed on the transplant waiting list in 2002. He suffers from a condition known as noncompaction syndrome, in which his heart appears sponge-like.

In 2006, his condition worsened, but good news came in March when he was told he was eligible for a used heart transplant.

The four-hour operation took place at Cedars-Sinai on March 13. Iwuchukwu, who is recovering at home, returns to the hospital for weekly checkups.