Woman given heart transplant with mismatched blood dies of infection

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 February, 2014, 5:29am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 February, 2014, 5:29am

A 59-year-old transplant patient who received a heart from a donor with an incompatible blood type in May has died of a lung infection.

The Hospital Authority said the case had been referred to the Coroner's Court. The woman, who had type A blood, received a heart from a type AB donor at Queen Mary Hospital.

Doctors had expected her body to reject the mismatched heart but it did not and she had recovered well. She was discharged in August but was admitted again in November because of the lung infection. She died on January 21.

Professor Lo Chung-mau, the hospital's chief of surgery, said people with respiratory fungal infections were usually those with suppressed immunity such as transplant patients on antirejection drugs.

This patient needed especially high doses as well as a different type of drug as the new heart had an incompatible blood type. "The high dosages obviously led to infections," he said. "This is the price."

There are no previous cases of mismatched blood type heart transplants in medical literature, which means there is no research data on appropriate anti-rejection drug dosages for the patient, said Lo.

"The transplant was a mistake, but it indirectly helped her and gave her a few more months to live," said Lo who did not treat the patient but has knowledge of the case.

Lo said the unacceptable mistake could have harmed the lives of two patients.

The patient had not suffered any loss as no suitable hearts were donated in the following weeks. The mismatched heart could not have benefited other patients either, as none of the patients in the queue were a match.