Photo Credit: Pixabay / ReaperDZ

A heart transplant team in the United States has brought a dead heart back to life for the first time, before placing it into the body of its recipient.

The doctors at Duke University in North Carolina reanimated the heart of a deceased donor this past Sunday (Dec. 1) by using an artificial circulatory mechanism that pumped warm, oxygenated blood through the heart while it was still outside the body of the planned recipient, a military veteran who was to receive the donated organ via the Mission Act.

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This form of transplant process is called Donation after Circulatory Death (DCD), and up to this point it had not yet been tried in the United States.

The surgery has been termed a success and the recipient is recovering well, according to all medical reports.

The medical center at Duke University is one of five in the United States approved to carry out DCD heart transplants as part of a clinical trial for the artificial circulatory mechanism that pumped the blood through the donated heart.

The device uses a technique called “warm perfusion” to circulate the blood, oxygen and electrolytes through the donated organ, reanimating the heart and prompting it to begin beating once more.

Last year, warm perfusion of a donor heart kept the organ alive for 16 hours when bad weather made it impossible for doctors to transport it to the designated recipient in time for the transplant to take place under normal conditions; the organ was instead transported by passenger train according to a research account later reported by the physicians themselves.

“To date, 100 cases of DCD heart transplantation have been performed” between six centers in Australia, the UK and Belgium, according to a research article in the Journal of Thoracic Disease, “The donor heart and organ perfusion technology“, dated April 11 2019. The device being used is called the Transmedic OCS Heart™ according to the research article.

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