Implanted cardiac tissues from pig and horse save life of combat soldier
The young soldier, Yaniv Yifrah, was diagnosed with severe cardiac insufficiency caused by a damaged aortic heart valve that endangered his life.
A combat soldier in the Golani Brigade recently underwent a rare cardiac operation with a pulmonary valve implant from a pig and a heart membrane from a horse.
The surgery on the Ashdod resident, named Yaniv Yifrah, was aimed at strengthening his heart so it could cope with pressures four times stronger than normal.
The operation, carried out by cardiac surgeon Dr. Ron Brauner at Rehovot’s Kaplan Medical Center, was similar to the one performed in 1997 on actor/ politician Arnold Schwarzenegger.
After the soldier collapsed during his military service, the operation saved his life, the doctors said.
Yifrah came on aliya from France with his family 12 years ago, and it was always his dream to serve in the IDF. “Already at school in France, I collapsed during matriculation exams, the doctors said I had to remain under medical observation. But they discharged me. I never thought the situation was so serious until I collapsed here during military service here.”
A multidisciplinary team at Kaplan’s cardiac institute, headed by Prof. Kobi George, diagnosed his condition of severe cardiac insufficiency caused by a damaged aortic heart valve that endangered his life.
Brauner explained that the operation, rarely performed, was meant to repair the soldier’s heart so it could function for many years without complications.
The condition is uncommon in young people, he added.
To prevent the expansion of the pig’s heart valve that could cause its failure, the pericardium membrane covering the heart was replaced with one from a horse. Thus the implanted tissues are very strong and can stand up to strong forces for pumping the blood through his body for many decades.