Beating Heart Transplants

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)

24 thoughts on “Beating Heart Transplants”

  1. tomdarch: “My father-in-law just received a heart transplant.”

    I hope he’s doing well and you and the rest of his family have many years together in the future.

  2. This is of course a topic that is near and dear to me. When you get called for a possible transplant you generally have about two hours to get to the hospital. This limits the possibility of where one can make their abode. Since only a limited number of hospitals do transplants, people in some sections of the country have little chance of receiving one, even though their need may be critical.

    In my case I live within an hours drive of the hospital, had no other conditions that could be averse to transplantation, the perfect blood type and a need born out of a rapidly failing heart.It is a crap-shoot and somehow I threw sevens. Some say to me that I was meant to be around longer, or that a higher power intervened. I’m not sure of that. However, all my life, where I’ve seen and experienced much tragedy, I’ve always had a sense that because I’ve spent a lifetime in service to others and treat people well, that even though I’ve never been had wealth or fame, I have been blessed with the things that really matter. I do believe in Karma.

    However, I must admit that at one point after the transplant, watching TV I saw this story about a young family in Arizona, whose husband/father vitally needed an organ transplant and was turned down because of lack of insurance. My feelings were of sadness, guilt and mostly anger at the fact that we as a society lack so much empathy and compassion for others.

  3. rcampbell,

    I’m with your father on this one.

    Twenty years ago a very good friend of mine and I watched her newborn die due to a serious heart defect within three days of birth.

    Two years ago my youngest grandchild was born with the same heart defect. The doctors were able to keep her alive and growing and at one year of age the child went through a 14 hour open heart procedure. Complete success ensued and today she is 100% and will live a full and normal life requiring no further open heart surgeries.

    The day after my grandchild’s surgery my friend and I sat outside the Cleveland Clinic, arms wrapped around each other crying for the child we lost and the wonder of the child we gained.

    Twenty years ….

  4. Bdaman thank you x’s.

    AY I am a “regular”, I’m simply a silent partner here. This is Mike’s venue so although I read the blog often, I leave it to him to comment here. I simply could not resist this topic.

    I’m sure Mike will be back here on a regular basis as soon he is home long enough to get into his normal routine. Every time he does he is sent back to the hospital for a tweak. Sometimes I wonder if our lives will ever be “normal” again.

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