In a world first, surgeons at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney, Australia have successfully transplanted a “dead” heart into a patient. Thanks to the use of a revolutionary preservation solution, developed by the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute and St Vincent’s Hospital, the doctors were able to resuscitate and transplant the donor heart after it had stopped beating for up to 20-30 minutes.
“[With] patients that have only a tiny little bit of brain function left, […] once life support is turned off and the heart has stopped beating, by Australian law surgeons have to wait five minutes before they can legally take the heart out for transplantation,” Professor Bob Graham, Executive Director of the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute tells Gizmag. “The heart is gradually deprived of oxygen for up to 20-30 minutes, which causes enormous amounts of damage to the organ. Previously it was thought that this damage was irreversible and so the hearts were unsuitable for transplant. But thanks to the preservation solution and the Organ Care System (better known as the ‘beating heart in a box’ machine), the heart can now be revived. The heart can be kept warm and beating on the machine for up to 8 hours. The machine is portable so it can be taken to any hospital in Australia.”