Transplant of Non-Beating Donor Heart
Recently, on September 16, 2020, Donor Network West made the first-ever successful transplant on the West Coast with a recovered non-beating donor heart. Generally, up until recently, heart transplants are done with patients that are declared brain dead, meaning there is irreversible loss of function of the brain and brainstem. With this type of death, doctors are still able to make an assessment of the heart’s functionality before transplantation.
However, in this case, the heart was taken from a patient that passed from a circulatory death (the irreversible loss of function of the heart and lungs), rather than brain death. Transplantations with circulatory death are called Donors After Circulatory Death(DCD). DCD recovers organs from a hospitalized donor who has died because their heart has stopped, either naturally or because life support has been removed. Hearts are generally exempt from this kind of transplantation because of the inability of the heart to pump oxygenated blood after death, meaning a higher risk of damage for the organ. Yet, thanks to the portable Organ Care SystemTM, which can perfuse the heart with warm blood, reviving and keeping the heart beating for assessment and possible transplantation, Donor Network West was able to make this transplantation. Nationally, more than 3,500 people are waiting for a heart transplant and approximately 300 people die each year waiting for one. However, this procedure can increase organ donation by up to 30%.
Here is an excerpt from Cision PrWeb’s article stating what Donor Network West had to say, “‘Donor Network West is proud to partner with UC San Diego Health and TransMedics as a part of the Donors After Circulatory Death Heart Trial to help save and heal more lives,’ said Janice F. Whaley, CEO of Donor Network West. ‘Through the use of this innovative new portable Organ Care System, we hope to soon be able to offer DCD hearts as a standard of care and ultimately eliminate the list of patients waiting for a lifesaving heart transplant.’”
I think this is an amazing breakthrough and look forward to the new amount of lives that will be able to be saved with organ donation. This provides new hope for those on the organ transplant waiting list. I’m sure it's very difficult to undergo organ failure, but I feel this sheds new light onto their lives. Hopefully this will be able to make the agonizing pain of waiting just a little bit shorter and easier.
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