The current, four decades old, organ transportation system uses an off-the-shelf cooler filled with ice to preserve the heart. With this method, transplantation should occur within 4 to 6 hours of harvesting. The longer the heart is on ice, the greater the chances of death or heart disease after the transplant.
TransMedics is going to revolutionize the organ transplant transportation methodology.
Inside the transportation cart, warm, oxygenated, nutrient-rich blood is pumped through a revived, beating heart. In this way the heart can tolerate longer intervals between harvesting and implantation.
One of the early “beating heart” transplants, in the U.S., occurred recently at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles. Surgeons re-stopped the donor heart before hooking it up. The heart restarted on its own when the recipient’s blood, via a heart-lung machine, started flowing through it.
This system should increase the number of transplants as the number of possible recipients and the number of possible donors are increased due to the increased transportation range. Fewer donated organs will go without recipients.
The units reportedly cost around $200,000, but with reuse, the cost per patient should be much lower.
H/T: Yahoo! News.
-David Drumm (Nal)