A dead heart has been brought “back to life” by a team of doctors at Duke University’s division of cardiovascular and thoracic surgery in the United States.
According to Daily Mail, the surgery — believed to be first of its kind in the US — was part of ongoing experiments to end the perennial scarcity of heart donors in cases involving heart transplant.
To achieve this, the surgeons extracted the heart of a dead donor who no longer had blood circulating through the body, using a heart-in-a-box technique known as “warm perfusion”.
The technique involves the removal of a dead heart immediately after a donor dies, putting the heart in a safe “box” connected to several tubes and then constantly supply it with blood, oxygen and electrolytes.
This helps “reanimates” the heart muscle which can then be successfully transferred into a person needing a heart transplant.
Jacob Schroder, a heart surgeon and director of the heart transplantation program at Duke University Medical Center, said he and his team are now the first to perform a donation after cardiac death (DCD) heart transplantation in the US.
“This is the first time in the US, which is a huge deal because transplant need and volume is so high, but a few centers around the world, including Papworth, have pioneered this effort,” he was quoted to have said.
Schroder also took to Twitter on Monday to break news of the feat.
“1ST ADULT DCD HEART IN THE USA!!!! This is the donor pool actively expanding!,” he posted on Twitter.
— Jacob Niall Schroder (@JacobNiall) December 1, 2019
The technique was first used at Royal Papworth Hospital in the UK in 2015 and has since successfully transplanted about 75 healthy hearts to patients.
This expands to donor pool (we expect up to as much as 30%) for those waiting for a new heart. If @RoyalPapworth experience (approx 75 DCD heart transplants to date) has shown us anything, this will decrease waitlist time, deaths on the waitlist, with excellent survival results
— Jacob Niall Schroder (@JacobNiall) December 2, 2019
In another tweet, he estimated that this new technique could broaden the donor pool by “as much as 30%.”
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