Australian doctors transplant ‘dead’ hearts


SYDNEY: Australian surgeons said they have used hearts which had stopped beating in successful transplants, in what they said was a world first that could change the way organs are donated.

Until now, doctors have relied on using the still-beating hearts of donors who have been declared brain dead, often placing the recovered organs on ice and rushing them to their recipients.

But Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital and the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute have developed a technique which means hearts which had been still for 20 minutes can be resuscitated, kept beating and transplanted into a patient.

So far three people have received hearts in this way, with two recovering well and the third and most recent recipient still requiring intensive care.

“They are the only three in the world,” surgeon Kumud Dhital, who is an associate professor at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, said yesterday.

“We know that within a certain period of time the heart, like other organs, can be reanimated, restarted, and only now have we been able to do it in a fashion whereby a heart that has stopped somewhere can be retrieved by the transplant team, put on the machine... and then (surgeons can) transplant it.”

The technique involves donor hearts being transferred to a portable machine known as a “heart in a box” in which they were placed in a preservation solution, resuscitated and kept warm.

All three patients have received hearts which came from different hospitals.

Peter MacDonald, medical director of the St Vincent’s Heart Transplant Unit, said it was likely that the first heart transplants ever performed in the 1960s used organs that had stopped beating. — AFP

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