World’s first heart transplant

Perhaps the biggest milestone in transplant history was created by Christiaan Barnard who carried out the first successful heart transplant in South Africa in 1967.

Barnard carried out his first kidney transplant in October 1967, and followed this up with the world’s first successful heart transplant on 3 December. His heart transplant patient, Louis Washkansky suffered from diabetes and incurable heart disease, and received his donor heart from a young woman who was pronounced brain-dead after a road accident on 2 December.

Although Washkansky died of pneumonia only 18 days after the procedure, his operation paved the way for all heart transplant patients over the subsequent 45 years.

The continued development of the Institute of Transplantation will ensure that this rich tradition continues, and that the spirit of the early pioneering transplant surgeons results in further improvements to patient care in the future.

Before Barnaard

Even before Barnaard’s pioneering work, the world’s first kidney transplantations were carried out in the USA in the 1950s. Meanwhile, in the UK Sir Michael Woodruff performed the first British kidney transplant in Edinburgh in 1960.

The first successful liver transplant was carried out by Thomas Starzl – who is known as the ‘father of modern transplantation’ – in the USA in 1967. His many accomplishments also saw the development of anti-rejection drugs and advances in organ preservation, which continue to have an impact on 21st century medical practices.

A year later in Cambridge, Sir Roy Calne performed the first liver transplantation on European soil. 20 years later - in 1987 - he also carried out the world’s first combined liver, lung and heart transplant.