Healthcare Tips

Beating Heart Transplanted Into Patient, A UK First

March 29, 2017

Surgeons have managed to transplant a beating heart into a patient for the first time in the UK. Surgeons removed the heart from the donor in one hospital, kept it pumping for five hours, during which time it was transported to another hospital where it was placed into a patient who was critically ill. The procedure was carried out a week ago and was a success, said Professor Bruce Rosenguard, head of the medical team. The patient is doing well.

The beating heart travelled from Addenbrookes hospital to Papworth hospital. It was kept beating in a specially designed Organ Care System which fed the heart blood and oxygen. The device can keep a heart pumping for up to 12 hours. When transplanted into the patient the heart was as fresh as when it had been removed from the donor.

Most non-beating hearts are viable for transplants for up to four hours. Soon after a heart is taken from the donor's body it starts to deteriorate rapidly - within about four hours. This new procedure manages to keep the donor organ fresh.

Three other hospitals in the UK and Germany will also take part in this pioneering procedure. There are 19 more operations to go. If the whole trial is seen as successful, it could mean offering many more donor hearts to needy patients.

If a heart can now be kept fresh for much longer, it widens the area it can be transported too. Having more time also makes it easier to get a medical team together. In other words, keeping the heart beating has the following advantages:

-- Medical teams have more control in deciding when the operation takes place
-- More donor hearts will be available for transplants
-- The donor heart can be more carefully checked for damage or disease
-- Better quality hearts, undamaged hearts, reduce the risk of rejection
-- The recipient receives a fresher heart

This procedure could be a godsend for the UK's 6,735 patients awaiting suitable hearts. About 400 people die each year in the UK because a suitable heart could not be found in time.