The human heart, typically located on the left side of the body, was positioned at the right side of a 60-year-old woman surnamed Tseng. All of her visceral organs were also “mirrored,” or located on the opposite side of their normal location, a rare case in which the major organs are inverted. Tseng had to receive a heart transplant due to congestive heart failure, but since the location of her heart and blood vessels were the opposite of the donor, it was very difficult to connect the vessels without causing them to become tangled. Tri-Service General Hospital spent seven hours performing the surgery, making Tseng the first patient in Asia to receive a successful heart transplant to treat dextrocardia situs inversus totalis.
Tseng was released from the hospital a month after having the surgery. She says that she seldom went to the doctor growing up and as an adult, and that although she was aware her heart was slightly different from other people, she never knew exactly how. It was not until she was recently hospitalized after experiencing heart pains that she found out her heart and major organs were reversed. Tseng’s liver was on her left side, her stomach was on her right side, a medical condition called dextrocardia situs inversus totalis.
Tri-Service General Hospital Surgery Department director Tsai Chien-sung says that between the 22nd and 23rd day of embryonic development, the tip of the heart usually slants to the right, but then normally slants back to the left between the 32nd and 34th day. However, if the tip of the heart does not slant back to the left, it results in dextrocardia, Tsai says.
Dextrocardia occurs in one in 10,000 births, and the chance of being born with dextrocardia situs inversus totalis is about one in a billion, Tsai says, adding that dextrocardia is not believed to be passed down genetically. However, if one family member has dextrocardia — or if one of the parents have the condition — the chances of being born with the condition is between 2 percent and 4 percent, roughly the same as the risk of developing congenital heart disease, he says.
(Liberty Times, Translated by Kyle Jeffcoat)