"Baby Fae," the world's longest-surviving recipient of an animal heart, continued in stable condition today, but doctors here said they will not be ready to do a second such transplant for some time.
As the 17-day-old infant spent a fifth day after Friday's operation without signs of rejecting the baboon heart in her chest, Loma Linda University Medical Center surgeon David B. Hinshaw said "we are not far enough out in this procedure to recommend it for another child."
Dr. Theodore Mackett, a kidney transplant expert at this Seventh-day Adventist institution, said parents with children who have heart ailments similar to Baby Fae's have been referred to a Philadelphia surgeon, Dr. William Norwood. University officials had said earlier that Norwood's efforts to repair infant hearts surgically had only "limited success" and had erroneously told reporters that no other doctors had been able to reproduce his results.
Dr. Robin Doroshow, a pediatric cardiologist, said the dark-haired, active Baby Fae was behaving like a normal infant her age.
"She is sucking on a pacifier quite vigorously as if we are not feeding her enough," Doroshow said.
Her parents have cuddled her and rocked her in her intensive-care room, and when the baby fusses, her mother can often calm her by just speaking to her. "I think she's beginning to know who her mother is," Doroshow said.
Her weight has dropped from 5.07 pounds at the time of the operation to about 4.6 pounds, but the doctors said much of this resulted from loss of unnecessary fluids.
Hinshaw corrected an erroneous report yesterday that the child had been breast-feeding. He said the mother's milk had dried up and that doctors felt that breast milk might have an adverse affect on the child's ability to accept the transplant.
Hinshaw said doctors often expect a transplant patient to begin showing signs of rejection of an alien organ seven to 10 days after the operation. But the baby's underdeveloped immune system and the use of a new drug, cyclosporin-A, make it hard to predict what will happen in this case.
Hospital officials have said they hope to do five transplants of baboon hearts to infants suffering from hypoplastic left heart syndrome, in which the child is born with most of the left side of the heart missing. The cost of each operation has been estimated at about $100,000.
The baboon transplant has been offered as a way to secure a ready source of donors and as an improvement over techniques like Norwood's that still leave the patient with a deformed heart and some limits on activities.
But medical center doctors today sought to counter criticism of their previous apparent misstatements on the success of the Norwood procedure. "We're not interested in any controversy at all with Dr. Norwood," Hinshaw said. "We think that's a very fine procedure."