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Research results into pioneering 'non-beating heart' transplants

Surgeons at Papworth carried out the first non-beating heart transplant in Europe in 2015 Credit: ITV News Anglia

The results of a new type of pioneering heart transplant carried out at Papworth Hospital have been revealed, as the world marks the 50th anniversary of the first ever heart transplant today.

In March 2015 the Cambridgeshire hospital performed Europe's first transplant using a non-beating heart. Since then the hospital has successfully treated 37 patients, increasing transplants by a third.

New research on the outcomes of this type of transplant has found the survival rate after two years is comparable to those of a beating heart transplant.

The hospital says the procedure is helping to address the shortage of donor hearts.

"Donor numbers are falling, mainly because of improvements in road safety and better management of health conditions like high blood pressure. There used to be around 400 heart transplants carried out every year in the UK, last year there were 178. The DCD procedure has managed to take hearts from donors we wouldn't normally have used and offer many more people a second chance at life."

– Professor John Wallwork, Chairman of Papworth Hospital Foundation Trust

The hospital has performed more than 1,400 heart transplants in total, but previously surgeons were only able to transplant beating hearts from donors following the diagnosis of brain death (DBD).

Now a newly published paper - Outcomes following heart transplantation from donation after circulatory determined death (DCD) donors - reveals the survival rate and recovery of 28 DCD recipients were comparable to those of matched DBD recipients over a 25-month period.

"It's great news; the results show the DCD procedure is at least as good as conventional DBD heart transplantation. We know that 56 per cent of people on the waiting list don't get transplanted because there are not enough donors, it's a stark illustration of just how vital these extra donor organs are."

– Consultant Cardiothoracic Surgeon Mr Stephen Large, who led the Papworth team

To join the NHS Organ Donor Register, telephone 0300 123 23 23.