Doctors transplanted a donor heart to "piggyback" on Hannah Clark's diseased organ a decade ago, said Dr. Victor Tsang, one of the 12-year-old's surgeons.
When she developed severe complications with her immune system recently, doctors at the Great Ormond Street Hospital decided to remove the donor heart so they could take her off the immune suppression drugs she needed to keep her body from rejecting it.
They had determined that her own heart had recovered sufficiently to work on its own, Tsang said.
"It is a very unique situation for a piggyback heart transplant to offer a window, a period of time, for the diseased heart to recover sufficiently to take over the circulation again 10 years later," he said.
CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Kaledin reports the procedure is rarely done — only about 12 have been performed on children in the United States. Instead of removing the damaged heart muscle, doctors surgically attach a second, donor heart. The second hard takes over function of the weakened heart, and then the two work together.
The donor heart was disconnected, and Hannah's own heart — which was never removed — was able to cope on its own, CBS News reports.
Hannah had suffered from cardiomyopathy, a condition in which her heart was inflamed to much bigger than its original size. Tsang said she made a quick recovery and went home less than a week after the operation.
The hospital said she was doing well, but because her case was so unique doctors did not know what her long-term prognosis was.
Sir Magdi Yacoub, who performed Hannah's original heart transplant when she was two, advised surgeons who carried out the operation on Feb. 20.
He told the BBC that the surgery was a "very happy ending".
The hospital said it believed her operation was the first of its kind in Britain.