Doctors at Duke University have successfully resuscitated the heart of a deceased donor using an artificial circulatory mechanism that continues to pump blood through the organ while it is outside the body.
Once reestablished, the organ was immediately transplanted to a patient in need of a healthy heart, which would have been a success. Experts call this a major step in reducing the current shortage of donor organs.
To bring the heart back to life, the doctors used a cutting edge technique called hot infusion, which circulates the blood, oxygen and electrolytes in the disembodied heart, pushing it to beat again. The method was used for the first time at the Royal Papworth Hospital in the UK in 2015.
An attending physician filmed the remarkable (and graphic) process and shared the images on Twitter.
"1 ADULTH DCD HEART TO USA !!!! This is the expanding donor pool! ", Wrote Jacob Niall Schroder, director of the heart transplant program at the Duke University Medical Center.
Cardiac tissues generally begin to deteriorate even before the patient has been declared dead because of the low rate of oxygen produced by the slowing of the heart. By the time death is proclaimed, the heart is already too damaged to be reused.
That is why, until now, the vital organs, that is to say those which are necessary for life, like the heart had to be taken from a donor still alive, but which was declared dead medically.
Between hosts, the heart is usually kept cold to prevent cavities and remains viable for up to six hours before being placed in a new body.
It's perhaps a first in the United States, but Royal Papworth has performed heart transplants in this way – what they call a donation after cardiac death – for 75 patients since their first attempt there four years ago, according to Schroder. In a tweet, he felt that this new technique could expand the donor pool from "up to 30%".
He told the Daily Mail, "This is the first time in the US, which is a huge deal because transplantation needs and volume are so important, but a few centers around the world, including Papworth, have been the first to invest in this effort.
. (tagsToTranslate) Living (t) heart transplants (t) medical breakthroughs (t) organ donations (t) organ transplants