Domino Heart Transplant Offers New Opportunities for Children with Congenital Heart Disease

By Morgan deBlecourt

When three-month-old Asher Hobby needed a heart transplant, his parents eagerly agreed to help to save another life at the same time. In June 2023 at Duke Health, Asher received a new heart from a deceased donor -- then the healthy valves and arteries from Asher’s old heart were transplanted into another infant with heart disease. Months later, both children are growing stronger and healthier every day. 

The innovation, known as a domino heart transplant, builds on the technique of partial heart transplantation pioneered at Duke in 2022 and may increase the number of hearts available for children in need. Instead of using mechanical valves that require multiple revision surgeries over time, the partial heart transplant uses human valves that will grow along with the child.

“It’s probably one of the biggest advances in congenital heart surgery in the last 40 years,” said Duke pediatric heart surgeon Joseph Turek, MD, who led both surgeries. “It's a wonderful setup where two children can benefit from one initial gift.”