A medical team from Papworth Hospital, Cambridge, led by consultant surgeon Stephen Large, has performed the first non-beating heart transplant in Europe. The recipient of the heart is Huseyin Ulucan who suffered from a heart attack in 2008.
“Before the surgery, I could barely walk and I got out of breath very easily, I really had no quality of life,” he told the BBC. Now he is able to attend hospital check-up appointments on his own.
Traditionally, heart transplantations use a brain dead donor whose heart continues to pump blood to all vital organs. This procedure, however, used a heart from a donor with a non-beating heart – a circulatory dead donor. New techniques were devised by the medical team to restart the heart inside the donor minutes after it had stopped beating. The heart activity was monitored for 50 minutes before being approved for transplantation. The organ was then removed from the donor’s body and placed in a machine that provided it with nutrients and kept it beating as the surgery proceeded.
According to statistics from the British Heart Foundation, over 250 patients are on the heart transplant list of which 13% pass away while they are waiting for a donor. Nearly a third is taken off the list as their illness deteriorates and they are no longer capable of undergoing surgery. James Neuberger from NHS Blood and Transplant, commented: “Sadly there is a shortage of organs for transplant across the UK and patients die in need of an organ. We hope Papworth’s work and similar work being developed elsewhere will result in more hearts being donated and more patients benefitting from a transplant in the future.”
The new procedure expands the number of donor hearts available for transplantation. Stephen Large said: “The use of this group of donor hearts could increase heart transplantation by up to 25% in the UK alone,”