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💓 Doctors revive a 'dead heart' for transplant in a groundbreaking medical first.

💓 Doctors revive a 'dead heart' for transplant in a groundbreaking medical first.

Rich Spuller
Rich Spuller

A team of surgeons at Duke University in Durham, NC have become the first in the United States to revive a heart harvested from a deceased donor.  The process is known as Donation after Circulatory Death, or DCD and is performed with a technique to run blood back into the disembodied heart, causing to beat once again.

In all, five medical centers in the United States have been approved to perform DCD heart transplants as part of a new clinical trial of a device that circulates warm, oxygenated blood through organs.

In a medical first, Duke surgeons successfully transplanted the revived heart into a recipient patient, and the achievement optimistically suggests that many more patients will one day be eligible for such donations.

Currently, the transplant wait list in the United States alone is more than 100,000 people.  Sadly, an average of 20 die every day waiting for new organs.  Doctors have long sought ways to broaden the donor pool to address the large gap between donor and recipient.

“This procedure has the potential to expand the donor pool by up to 30 percent,” said Jacob Schroder, M.D., who performed the procedure at Duke over the weekend and is surgical director of Duke's Heart Transplant Program in the Department of Surgery. “Increasing the number of donated hearts would decrease the wait time and the number of deaths that occur while people are waiting."

The recipient of the transplant is a U.S. Military Veteran who received his heart through the Mission Act, is recovering well.