A 55-year-old man from Champaign, Illinois, has become the first recipient of a transplanted heart donated after circulatory death by using a new technique known as a “heart in a box.”
“This is one of the greatest advances we’ve made since the first heart transplant in 1969,” said Dr. Duc Thinh Pham, Director of Heart Transplantation and Mechanical Circulatory Support, Northwestern Medicine Bloom Cardiovascular Institute.
The official name of the device is “TransMedics Organ Care System (OCS) Heart”. A portable ‘heart in a box’ can resuscitate a stopped heart and keep the heart beating outside the body until it can be transplanted.
Donated hearts were from documented organ donors who did not meet the criteria for brain death.
“Those with devastating head injuries or trauma, just can’t be legally declared dead,” Dr. Benjamin Bryner, associate director of heart transplantation and mechanical support and director of the Expanded Endowment Program at the Bloom Cardiovascular Institute.
“Once a family has time to say goodbye, life support is withdrawn. We wait until the heart officially stops, and then we have to get in very quickly,” Dr. Fan said.
The transplant team has about 30 minutes to connect the donor heart to the “heart-in-a-box” machine and then ship it to Northwestern Medicine for transplant. “It has the potential to really increase the number of transplants we can do and shorten the wait time for patients on the recipient’s waiting list,” said Dr. Brainer said.
Surgeons at Northwestern University say the new technology will allow them to perform 30 percent more heart transplants each year.
“This is a huge opportunity for patients waiting for a heart transplant.” Fan said.
On October 12, 2022, a Northwestern University transplant team procured the first donor heart using a “heart in a box” system and transplanted it into Jerry Dorsey, 55, from Champaign.
When the transplant took place, Dorsey’s life expectancy was less than two weeks.
“It really, really saved his life,” Dr. Dorsey is recovering from a successful transplant, Pham said.