Utilizing a groundbreaking machine that is able to replicate conditions inside the human body, NHS doctors revived non-beating hearts and brought them back to life, then transplanted them into children.
Until now, donated hearts used for transplants are taken from a very limited pool of donors. The donors are typically verified brain-dead patients whose heart is still beating, but would be unable to survive without artificial life support.
But in a “world first” using a groundbreaking machine that replicates conditions inside the human body, NHS doctors were able to revive a stopped heart and use it in a transplant, the Daily Mail reported.
Reportedly, doctors from the NHS at the Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridgeshire have become the first in the world to successfully revive a previously stopped heart and transplant it into a child patient.
The groundbreaking technique was used on six patients, whose ages ranged between 12 and 16, according to reports.
The technique for transplanting the previously non-beating, clinically dead hearts uses a new groundbreaking machine that is able to replicate conditions inside of the body, which allows the heart to start beating again. The technique was named “Donation after Circulatory Death” (DCD), the Sunday Times reported.
Previously, non-heart-beating donation has been deemed unsuitable for transplantation due to the damage sustained from oxygen deprivation when the heart stops. This condition has limited the scope for the number of possible transplants available.
Now, in light of the groundbreaking new procedure, doctors are able to use a heart-in-a-box machine called the Organ Care System that is able to replicate the conditions of the human body and bring hearts back to life after they have been removed from the donor.
A defibrillation pulse is used to get the heart beating again. Once revived, the heart is kept warm, while also keeping 1.5 liters of the donor’s blood circulating through them in a cycle, as well as receiving nutrients. Doctors are even able to regulate heart rate by remote control.
So far, all of the six patients receiving heart transplant through the DCD technique appear to have improved and in seemingly good condition.
Anna Hadley, now 16, from Worcester, told the paper she had waited almost two years for her heart transplant and is now able to play hockey again.
“I just feel normal again,” Anna said. “There’s nothing I cannot do now.”
Another patient is Freya Heddington, 14, from Bristol, who spoke to the BBC.
“I now have more stamina,” Freya said. “I can go out for long walks and climb hills and I don’t need to stop for breathers.”
Freya added, “I am ecstatic that I got such an amazing gift, but it’s upsetting to know that someone also died.”
The long-term results remain to be seen, but the implications of the successful operation could set the stage for a huge increase in the availability of donor organs. Numerous lives may be saved going forward that could not have in the past due to the limited availability of donor hearts.