A spokeswoman for the doctor who performed the first animal-to-human heart transplant said today that an article blaming the infant's death on mismatched blood types was "incomplete and inaccurate."
The statement by a spokeswoman for Dr. Leonard L. Bailey of the Loma Linda University Medical Center came in reaction to a Los Angeles Times account of a talk Bailey gave Tuesday at a Monterey, Calif., medical conference.
According to the Times, Bailey told the California Perinatal Association that the infant, known as Baby Fae, died because of a "catastrophic" medical decision to use the heart of a baboon with a different blood type. She died nearly 21 days after the transplant, when she developed antibodies to her own red blood cells, causing her blood to clot, the article said.
The Times reported that Bailey said the infant's blood was type O and that he had no baboon donors with that type. He used a baboon with type AB. "If Baby Fae had the type AB blood group, she would be alive today," the Times quoted Bailey as saying.
Baby Fae was born Oct. 14, 1984, with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a deformity that usually brings death within a few weeks if untreated. Surgical methods to correct the ailment have had limited success, and human infant heart donors are rare.
A spokeswoman for Loma Linda University said after reaching Bailey that the article was "incomplete and inaccurate, starting with the headline." She said Bailey would have no further comment until his research was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Experts suggested shortly after Baby Fae's death that she may have succumbed to rejection of the alien heart tissue or kidney damage caused by antirejection drugs.