Research and Technology

23.03.20

Royal Papworth Hospital performs world first heart-lung transplant

A specialist transplant team at Royal Papworth Hospital have successfully completed the world’s first transplant of a Donation after Circulatory Death (DCD) heart-lung bloc.

The life-saving operation was carried out on a 25-year-old patient in summer 2019 and the patient continues to show a full recovery, recently starting a new job and working full time for the first time in five years almost a year after his surgery.

DCD transplantation involves using organs from donors who have died because their circulation has stopped, compared with the traditional method of Donation after Brainstem Death (DBD) donors whose death has been confirmed using neurological criteria.

Pedro Catarino, Clinical Lead for Transplant at Royal Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and lead surgeon for the transplant, said: “On average, there are about four heart-lung transplants in the UK each year. This is because very few suitable donor organs are available and priority is generally given to people who need a heart transplant only.

“This means there have been very few opportunities to try this new technique since we performed our first DCD heart transplant here at Royal Papworth five years ago.”

The patient who underwent the DCD transplant was born with transposition of the arteries, a condition where the pulmonary artery and aorta are swapped over. Despite corrective surgery at just 18 months, he developed pulmonary hypertension, which by the age of 20 started significantly impacting on his life.

Royal Papworth Hospital was able to carry out the DCD transplant thanks to a machine capable of helping pump oxygenated blood into both organs and effectively reanimate the deteriorating organs.

Mr Catarino believes the pioneering procedure could double or even quadruple the number of heart and lungs available for transplant in the UK, helping reduce the dangers for those stuck on waiting lists.

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