Doctors Pump Life Into Deceased Donor Heart For First Time In The U.S.

Doctors Pump Life Into Deceased Donor Heart For First Time In The U.S.

Employing a pioneering technique called warm transfusion, doctors at Duke University have successfully re-animated the heart of a dead donor.

Using a pioneering technique, doctors at Duke University have successfully re-animated the heart of a deceased donor. According to a report by The New York Post, experts employed an artificial circulatory mechanism to continue pumping blood through the organ even after being removed from the deceased's body. After bringing the organ back to life, it was immediately transplanted into a patient who needed a healthy heart and that procedure was also reportedly successful. Medical experts are now viewing this method as a significant step that could potentially reduce the shortage of organ donors by keeping the organs alive even after the person passes away. 


To bring the heart back to life, the physicians used a technique called warm perfusion that distributes blood, oxygen, and electrolytes through the disembodied heart, prompting it to beat on its own once again. One of the attending doctors recorded the exceptional (and graphic) process and Tweeted it. The director of the heart transplantation program at Duke University Medical Center, Jacob Niall Schroder wrote: 1ST ADULT DCD HEART IN THE USA!!!! This is the donor pool actively expanding! 


The first-ever heart transplant surgery was conducted in 1967 in South Africa and a year later doctors at Stanford University performed the same in the U.S. Over 3,400 heart transplants were performed across the U.S. by 2018. Despite being a relatively common procedure now, the constant shortage of organs has now rendered the procedure fruitless in many cases. In the U.S. alone, the transplant waitlist is over 100,000 people long with 20 of them dying every day while waiting for an organ. Nearly 45 percent of the population are registered as organ donors in America. 


However, the pool is constantly shrinking as the doners pass away. Simply increasing the number of donors isn't enough and so in an attempt to expand the pool of such donors, transplant communities have significantly extended their pool by allowing transplantation of organs from donors who tested positive for hepatitis C. Apart from meeting the desired health conditions, time plays an equally important role in the process of harvesting. Now, the heart tissues usually die way before a patient is pronounced dead as the oxygen supply is cut off. This renders the organ useless.


Considering this complication, transplant surgeons have been restricted to using hearts from donors who have been declared brain dead whose other vital organs are functioning normally. Although the best way to keep one's heart from decaying is by freezing it, the organ can only be useful for four to six hours outside the body. But if doctors could reanimate the heart after removing it from the donor's body, it lives independently. This reduces the dependability on just brain-dead donors. 


Even though this remarkable procedure has been performed successfully for the first time in the U.S, it was first applied at the Royal Papworth Hospital, the UK in 2015. Dr. Jacob Schroder, one of the heart surgeons involved in the Duke University procedure, estimates nearly 75 heart transplants performed using warm perfusion at the hospital which is the country's main center for both heart and transplants. "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," Schroder told Daily Mail.


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