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How old is too old for a major organ transplant?

by AirTalk®

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Former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney (L) refuses to answer press questions as he leaves the Senate Republican policy luncheon with Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) (3rd L) at the U.S. Captiol November 29, 2011 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

For more than two decades, former Vice President Dick Cheney has suffered from heart problems. He’s had five heart attacks and numerous medical procedures to keep his ticker ticking along, including the implant of a state of the art pacemaker in 2001 and another operation in 2007 to replace that pacemaker’s batteries. In 2010, after his fifth heart attack, he was fitted with a left ventricle assist device (LVID), a machine that essentially does the work of the heart and one of the last steps one can take before a transplant.

Now, however, Cheney has a whole new heart. This weekend, after approximately 20 months on the transplant list, Cheney underwent a full transplant with a heart from an anonymous donor. A Cheney aide said in a statement, “Although the former Vice President and his family do not know the identity of the donor, they will be forever grateful for this lifesaving gift.”

At 71, Cheney is among the oldest to receive a transplant, and has well-documented affiliate health problems. Those two factors are leading many in the medical profession and beyond to wonder why Cheney was given a new heart when so many who are younger and healthier are still waiting. The fact is Cheney’s prognosis is good. The survival rate for people over 65 is 84 percent in the first year.

Do you know someone waiting for a heart transplant? How old is he or she, and in what state of health? Do you think someone is just too old for a transplant?


Dr. John Kobashigawa, Director of the Heart Transplant Program at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute

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