‘Dead’ hearts transplanted into living patients in world first
Breakthrough by Australian surgeons at St Vincent’s hospital could save the lives of 30% more heart transplant patients
Australian surgeons have successfully transplanted “dead” hearts into patients for the first time – a groundbreaking procedure with the potential to significantly boost the supply of donor organs.
The number of donor hearts has been limited in the past by the fact that they have had to be taken from brain-dead patients while the organ is still beating. But a team at St Vincent’s hospital heart lung transplant unit in Sydney announced on Friday that they had performed three transplants with donor hearts that had stopped beating for 20 minutes. Two of the patients who received the transplant have recovered well, while the third, who only undertook the procedure recently, remains in intensive care.
Cardiologist and unit director Peter MacDonald said the donor hearts were housed in a portable console dubbed a “heart in a box” and submerged in a ground-breaking preservation solution jointly developed by the hospital and the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute. They were then connected to a sterile circuit where they were kept beating and warm.
Cardiothoracic surgeon Kumud Dhital, who performed the transplants using hearts donated after circulatory death, said he “kicked the air” when the first surgery was successful.
“The incredible development of the preservation solution with this technology of being able to preserve the heart, resuscitate it and to assess the function of the heart has made this possible,” he told a press conference.
The team of researchers said the success heralded a “paradigm shift” that could save the lives of 30% more heart transplant patients by increasing the supply of suitable donors.
The first patient to have the surgery was Michelle Gribilas. The 57-year-old, who was suffering from congenital heart failure and had surgery about two months ago, said the operation had transformed her life. “I was very sick before I had it,” she said. “Now I’m a different person altogether. I feel like I’m 40 years old. I’m very lucky.”
The second patient, Jan Damen, 43, also suffered from congenital heart failure and had surgery about two weeks ago. The father-of-three is still recovering at the hospital. “I feel amazing,” he said. “I’m just looking forward to getting back out into the real world.”
This woman is pictured holding her own heart after successful transplant.
Worldwide, about 3,500 heart transplants were performed annually, but about 800,000 people have a Class IV heart defect indicating a new organ. These numbers show the lack of donors impressively.
The most common procedure is to take a working heart from a recently deceased organ donor (cadaveric allograft) and implant it into the patient. The patient’s own heart is either removed (orthotopic procedure) or, less commonly, left in place to support the donor heart (heterotopic procedure).
Post-operation survival periods averaged 15 years. Heart transplantation is not considered to be a cure for heart disease, but a life-saving treatment intended to improve the quality of life for recipients.
This might sound crazy… but in rare instances a domino transplant makes some heart-lung recipients living heart donors. When a patient receives a heart-lung “bloc” from a deceased donor, his or her healthy heart may be given to an individual waiting for a heart transplant. Extremely rare, this procedure is used when physicians determine that the deceased donor lungs will function best if they are used in conjunction with the deceased donor heart.
#1576: “The world’s first artificial heart was made of Dacron. It was implanted into a patient by Dr. Denton Cooley in Houston, Texas, on April 4, 1969. Four days later it was rejected by the patient’s body and the patient died.”
On April 4, 1969, the first artificial heart was implanted. It was originally intended as a
bridge to help the patient survive until a donor was found, nearly three days
later. The artificial heart was a simple pump, made of plastic and Dacron
Less than two days after his donor
heart was transplanted, the patient died of complications related to an infection.