Doctors Successfully used “Dead” Hearts in Transplants
According to surgeons from Australia, they have successfully performed a heart transplant using a dead heart.
The doctors from St. Vincent's Hospital located in Sydney reported that they were able to revive hearts that stopped beating for up to 20 minutes. After the hearts were revitalized, the team implanted one of them into a female patient. The patient, 57-year-old Michelle Gribilas, who had congenital hear failure, stated that she felt younger with the new heart.
"Now I'm a different person altogether. I feel like I'm 40 years old - I'm very lucky," Gribilas, who underwent the procedure about two months ago, stated according to BBC News.
In order to make a dead heart viable, the team used a machine called "heart-in-a-box," which is a portable device that can house and resuscitate the organ. This box connects the heart to an electronic circuit that keeps it warm and beating. To reduce damages to the heart muscles during this process, the team also used a nourishing, organ-preservation fluid that has to be injected directly into the heart.
"We warm it up and the heart starts to beat. When its beating we can measure the metabolism of the heart and based on the performance of the heart on the machine we can tell quite reliably whether this heart will work," Professor Peter MacDonald, head of St Vincent's heart transplant unit, explained according to the Wall Street Journal.
Hearts are the only organs that cannot be used after they have stopped working. For heart transplants, doctors typically take the beating hearts from patients who have been declared brain dead and ice them for about four hours before implanting them into another patient. This case study, however, suggests that dead hearts could be used.
"This breakthrough represents a major inroad to reducing the shortage of donor organs," Professor MacDonald said.
The heart-in-a-box device is currently being tested at multiple sites throughout the world. Researchers believe that the device could potentially save up to 30 percent more lives.