Non-beating heart used for transplant

31st March 2015

More people with serious heart problems, such as advanced cardiomyopathy, could get transplants following pioneering work at Papworth Hospital in Cambridge.

The hospital has become the first in Europe to transplant a non-beating heart into a patient.   The recipient, a 60-year-old London man, was out of critical care after four days and is now recovering at home.

Previously it has been thought unsafe to transplant non-beating hearts.

Dilated cardiomyopathy is one of the main reasons for a heart transplant.   Though most people with the disease never need a transplant some die because of organ shortages.

Last year around 170 people were given new hearts. Experts estimate that the new procedure could lead to another 40 to 50 heart transplants a year.

Specialists at Papworth Hospital, who spent more than a decade working on the procedure, said that Huseyin Ulucan, who had been ill after a heart attack in 2008,  had made a remarkable recovery.

“The use of this group of donor hearts could increase heart transplantation by up to 25 per cent in the UK alone,” said consultant surgeon Stephen Large.

Traditionally hearts used in transplants have come from donors who are declared dead, but still have blood pumping around their bodies. But in the Papworth transplant, the donor’s heart had stopped beating.

Doctors assessed the restarted heart for 50 minutes before approving it for transplantation. They then removed it from the donor and placed it in a machine, which kept it beating for three hours until the operation went ahead.

Five other heart transplant centres around the UK are expected to start using the procedure soon.