A lady in the Ronald Regan UCLA Medical Center in California has a new heart beating in her chest after doctors completed a new, trial way of transplanting organs – keeping it warm and beating in a special container that provides it blood and heat even while it is outside of a human body.
She signed up to take part in the program and had a 50-50 chance of being the first person to get a heart this way when a call came in about a suitable donor heart. She needed a new heart because lupus was destroying hers.
As she was heading to the hospital, doctors were taking out the donor heart. Instead of the regular technique of putting the heart on ice, it was put in the prepared container along with blood and nutrients. The patient was put on a heart lung machine and made ready for surgery while the donor heart was kept beating in the special transport box. When the surgeons opened her chest and transplanted the new heart, it had been beating for three hours before it was stopped long enough to transplant and restart it.
The patient is in a 128 patient experimental study at the Ronald Regan Medical Center. The clinic, along with the University of California , Los Angeles, and a number of other schools are comparing this new technique with the existing way of keeping donated organs on ice for carrying.
The original beating heart transplant was completed in 2006 in Germany and used an organ container invented by TransMedics Inc., a private medical device company in Andover, Mass., as part of a multi-center study in Europe. Europe doctors have completed about 100 of this new-fangled type of heart transplant with 97 percent of the patients that had it living with no complications.
It does cost a lot though, about $200, 000 versus about $35 for the simple ice cooler used in the U.S. today for the majority of transplanted organs.
After the transplant, the patient was subjected to a set of tests with normal results.