PIONEERING Papworth Hospital has achieved another UK first – a successful beating heart transplant. A 58-year-old Norfolk man volunteered to be a guinea pig for the procedure, which uses a new system for organ conservation that could revolutionise trans
PIONEERING Papworth Hospital has achieved another UK first - a successful beating heart transplant.
A 58-year-old Norfolk man volunteered to be a "guinea pig" for the procedure, which uses a new system for organ conservation that could revolutionise transplant surgery.
The procedure relies on the Transmedics Organ Care System to maintain the organ in a functioning state outside the body.
The heart is revived to a beating state, perfused with oxygen and nutrient-rich blood and maintained at the appropriate temperature.
The system can keep organs in their physiological, beating state during transport and until implantation.
Normally, donor hearts lie dormant in cold fluid for four to six hours before being given to recipients. But the new process means the hearts lie inactive for shorter periods - a move that looks set to give a better chance of saving lives.
The UK's first successful beating heart transplant operation was carried out by a team of surgeons led by Professor Bruce Rosengard.
The operation may mean hearts and other organs that were previously less suitable for transplant can be "revived" and successfully used in the life-saving surgery.
The Norfolk man who received the heart has not been named but Prof Rosengard said he was back on a ward and doing "extremely well."
Prof Rosengard said: "He did have the opportunity to have a routine transplant but he decided it was important to do it this way.
"He is proud of the fact he has been involved and told me that he felt sometimes people have got to stand up and be guinea pigs to help make these advances happen."
Experts hope the new system will have the capability to revive organs from donors whose hearts have already stopped beating.
Prof Rosengard added: "More research and development needs to be done, but what this will mean is that we can double, possibly triple, or potentially quadruple the total number of transplants we can do a year."
UK Transplant - a body that ensures donated organs are matched and allocated in a fair way - says more than 8,000 people currently need organ transplants in the UK but, due to a severe shortage of donated organs, fewer than 3,000 operations are carried out each year and about 400 people die every year while waiting for a suitable organ to become available.
There are currently 104 people, including nine children, registered for heart transplants in the UK, with a further 43 patients waiting for combined heart and lung transplants, including two children.
From April 1 last year to March 31, 146 people received a heart or heart and lung transplant, down from 170 during 2004-05.
The European trials for the system are also being carried out in the UK at Harefield Hospital in Middlesex as well as at centres in Berlin and Bad-Oeynhausen, Germany.
A further trial planned for North America has yet to start.
The trial is intended to involve 20 patients in the four centres.
Three operations have been carried out so far with the Papworth op the first in the UK.
Prof Rosengard said: "The device has worked very well so far.
"In our case it has been spectacular.