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Surgeon who led first Czech heart transplant dies aged 83

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Prague, March 31 (CTK) – Vladimir Kocandrle, Czech surgeon who led the first successful heart transplant operation in Czechoslovakia in 1984, died at the age of 83 on Thursday, his son told CTK Friday.
Kocandrle was a former director of the Institute of Clinical and Experimental Medicine (IKEM) in Prague.

He started to work with IKEM in 1961 and was its director in 1983-1990.

After a year-long study stay in the United States, Kocandrle and a group of surgeons, nephrologists and immunologists took part in the first successful kidney transplant in former Czechoslovakia in March 1966.

The male recipient lived with the new kidney for three years.

Under Kocandrle, IKEM also performed the first successful pancreas transplant operation in Czechoslovakia in 1983.

Also under his leadership, the surgical team of Professor Pavel Firt performed a heart transplant operation that was the first successful surgery of this kind not only in Czechoslovakia but in the whole Eastern bloc.

A 44-year-old technician Josef Divina received the heart of a 35-year-old donor. He died 13 years after the surgery.

The first heart transplant attempt was made by Karol Siska’s surgical team in Bratislava in 1968. The 50-year-old female patient died five hours afterwards, however.

In 1984, Kocandrle’s team also performed a heart transplant on Rudolf Sekava, a teacher from south Bohemia, who would have otherwise survived for a few months at the most, according to experts.

At present, Sekava is the longest-living Czech heart transplant patient.

After Kocandrle left IKEM, he went to the military Watler Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, where also presidents are treated. In 1991-93, he introduced a programme of combined pancreas and kidney transplant operations.

He left the United States to head a planned cardiological centre in the Prague Military Hospital, but it was not eventually opened. He left the hospital in 1994 and ended with surgery.

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