The 71-year-old Italian was taken to hospital in Verona with chest pains. He was short of breath, sweating, and had low blood pressure – all the symptoms of a typical heart attack.
The point is that this man was quite an unusual patient, because he has two hearts. No, there’s no mistake.
“I’ve never seen a double heart,” said Dr. David Friedman, chief of heart failure services at North Shore University Hospital in Plainview, L.I. “It’s amazing.”
The patient, who wasn’t named, had undergone a double heart transplant a few years ago, according to a report in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.
“To date, he is in good clinical condition, with no further arrhythmias,” was written in the report.
The doctors saw that the two hearts had independent rhythms and started drug therapy to correct the problem.
After the operation chambers and blood vessels of the two organs were connected so that the new heart could support the old one.
“The patients’ orginal heart has a chance to improve and recover,” said Friedman. “If the donor heart fails, it can be removed, leaving the patient’s original heart in place.”
But one of the hearts had become stronger and had started beating at a different rate to the other.
“You can develop two independent heart rhythms, especially in a scenario where one heart gets a little better,” said Dr. Rade Vukmir, professor of emergency medicine at Temple University.
However, suddenly, both of the hearts stopped beating and the patient lost consciousness, says the New York Daily News.
Luckily, with the help of a heart defibrillator the doctors managed to bring the man back to life.
After that the medics replaced his pacemaker but left both hearts intact, capping one of the most bizarre medical cases in recent memory.
“We haven’t ever seen anything similar to this case before,” Dr. Giacomo Mugnai said.
Dr Rade Vukmir said he had seen the procedure carried out on kidney and cardiac patients before.
“We see this in cardiac patients or kidney patients, sometimes,” said Dr Vukmir. “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.”
Such patients are too rare these days, Vukmir added. In the 1990s and in the 2000s, external machines called ventricular assist devices could be used to do the job the second heart in the Italian man was doing, but they were too large and enormously expensive, reports Body Odd.
That’s why the best option was to transplant one more heart. Today, though, the devices have shrunk to small and portable and heterotopic heart transplants are almost never done. Fortunately, Vukmir said, well-trained E.R. doctors are made aware that some people are still walking around with bodies that give new meaning to the term “a lotta heart.”