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Heart transplant performed using procedure that could drastically expand donor pool

Posted at 4:01 PM, Dec 03, 2019

DURHAM, N.C. – Doctors at Duke University Hospital performed a heart transplant using a procedure that could drastically expand the amount of organ donations available to patients in need.

Jacob Schroder, M.D. and the hospital’s heart transplant team performed the surgery on a military veteran on Sunday, using the procedure known as Donation after Circulation Death, or DCD.

With the surgery, Duke says the team became the first in the nation to transplant an adult heart into a recipient using the DCD method. However, DCD transplants are done regularly in the U.S. for organs other than the heart.

Traditionally, heart donations have depended on declaration of brain death. But with DCD transplants, the donor’s heart has actually stopped beating and the person is declared deceased.

Schroder says the DCD heart procedure has the potential to expand the donor pool by up to 30%.

“Increasing the number of donated hearts would decrease the wait time and the number of deaths that occur while people are waiting,” said Schroder, who is also surgical director of Duke's Heart Transplant Program.

Duke is one of five centers in the U.S. that has been approved to perform DCD heart transplants as part of a recently launched clinical trial of a device to circulate warm, oxygenated blood through organs.

“It’s important to conduct this clinical trial to determine whether those outcomes are realized,” said Schroder.

As for the veteran who received the heart, the hospital says he’s recovering well.

“We are grateful for the courage and generosity of both the donors and recipients,” said Schroder.