Europe Performs Their First Heart Transplant Post-DCDD

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British transplant surgeons at Papworth Hospital, Cambridge, UK, performed their first heart transplant of a non-beating heart. Usually, hearts are recovered from patients who are brain dead and become donors. Another type of deceased organ donor are donors after circulatory determination of death (DCDD). Some patients meeting specific criteria can become donors after cardiac death and organs are recovered for transplantation after a few minutes of circulatory cessation. Kidneys, liver, pancreas, and lungs can be recovered after DCDD.

There have been various factors for not recovering hearts post DCDD cases, one of the primary concerns has been the viability of the heart tissue after it has stopped for a period of time. The surgeons at Papworth waited the commonly utilized 5 minute safety period after cardiac death occurred and then restarted the heart in the donor’s body and observed it for a period of time. As it seemed to be functioning well, the heart was transferred to a heart-in-a-box machine where it was kept nourished and beating for a further three hours before it was transplanted.

The practice of recovering organs after cardiac death is not revolutionary and in fact was the practice prior to brain death laws. However, technology has been limited to optimize some of the more vulnerable organs.

The recipient is recovering well and went home 4 days after transplant.

This is not the first case of a heart transplant from a DCDD donor. Last year, Australia performed the world’s first transplant using a non-beating heart, using the same heart-in-a-box technology.

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