A veteran became the first U.S.-based adult patient Sunday to receive a heart transplant from a donor whose heart and circulatory system had been declared dead.
Heart transplants are traditionally made during the short interval when a donor has been declared neurologically dead but has a still-beating heart.
The surgery team at Duke University Hospital in Durham, North Carolina, conducted the groundbreaking procedure as part of a trial to test the TransMedics Organ Care System, a device that circulates warm, oxygenated blood through a heart that has stopped beating.
Once the heart restarts, it can remain in the system until the recipient is ready for the operation.
Transplants of this nature have been done for other organs, but to this point, only surgeons in Europe and Australia have conducted the procedure, which is classified as a Donation after Circulatory Death, or DCD, according to the Duke University press release.
“It’s important to conduct this clinical trial to determine whether those outcomes are realized,” Dr. Jacob Schroder, the surgical director of Duke’s Heart Transplant Program in the Department of Surgery, said in the release.
“We are grateful for the courage and generosity of both the donors and recipients.”
The ability to revive — or reanimate — the heart should drastically increase survivability of those desperate for transplants by expanding the donor pool by up to 30 percent, Schroder said.
“Increasing the number of donated hearts would decrease the wait time and the number of deaths that occur while people are waiting.”
Duke is currently one of just five U.S.-based surgical centers authorized to use the TransMedics Organ Care System to perform the DCD heart transplant.
The veteran recipient, whose name was left out of the release, is reportedly recovering well.
The patient was afforded the opportunity for the procedure through the VA’s Mission Act.
J.D. Simkins is a writer and editor for Military Times, and a USMC veteran.