'Dead' heart brought back to life in pioneering transplant surgery

Anthony Anderson and Rajamiyer Venkateswaran, Director of Transplantation and Consultant Cardiac Surgeon at Wythenshawe Hospital. Credit: PA / MEN Media

A ‘dead’ heart brought back to life by a pioneering piece of technology has been successfully transplanted at Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester.

The pioneering ‘heart in a box’ technology, which can keep a heart preserved and beating for up to eight hour, could save hundreds of lives.

Doctors at Wythenshawe hospital used the groundbreaking technology to retrieve a stopped heart from a donor, get it beating again and successfully transfer it to Anthony Anderson, of Swinton.

The 58-year-old was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle, which left him seriously ill in intensive care and he was placed on the urgent transplant list.

The renowned south Manchester-based hospital is one of only four centres in the world to have carried out the revolutionary procedure.

But doctors believe that it could potentially help save hundreds of more lives - by allowing allowing a greater number of donor hearts to be used or considered for donation.

They used technology known as an the Transmedia Organ Care System to get the stopped heart beating and allowing it to be kept outside the body for up to eight hours, meaning that previously unusable hearts can be resuscitated ready for transplant.

It works by pumping blood round the heart to restore functionality. Once the heart is beating again, surgeons are able to assess the donor heart more extensively and reduce the risk of rejection.

Speaking after the successful operation, Anthony said:

Anthony first began feeling tired and suffering with palpitations in 2002, but overtime his symptoms worsened significantly and he was referred to Wythenshawe Hospital where he was cared for on the Intensive Care Unit.

Just weeks after his transplant, Anthony was back at home, but continues to be monitored by the team.

He added:

Surgeons believe the breakthrough could help to consider a new vista of potential donors and save up to a fifth more lives.

Rajamiyer Venkateswaran is the director of Transplantation and Consultant Cardiac Surgeon at Wythenshawe Hospital.

He explained that this type of transplant is different because it uses a ‘Donation After Circulatory Determined Death’ (DCD) donor heart – which is where the donor is not brain dead but has sustained severe brain injury.

He said:

The highly specialised OCS machine has been funded by a £125,000 donation by the New Start Charity, which was set up to provide financial assistance to the heart and lung transplantation programme and future clinical developments in heart and lung surgery at Wythenshawe Hospital.

Wythenshawe Hospital, run by the University Hopsital of South Manchester NHS Trust, has long been home to one of the UK’s top cardiac centres and is home to world-leading experts in heart, lungs and chest surgery.

The revolutionary transplant technique was first devised a few years ago. But it has only been carried out in a handful of hospitals around the world.The number of people who require an organ transplant far outstrips the number of organs available for donation.

The number of people who require an organ transplant far outstrips the number of organs available for donation.

Patients and donors must also be carefully matched to ensure the compatability, meaning that would-be recipients can wait years for a suitable replacement.

According to the NHS’s Blood and Transplant service, there were 197 heart transplants in UK hospitals last year.

But on the end of March last year, 246 people were on the active donor list, 30 of whom were children.

Doctors who have pioneered the new technique believe that it will allow them to consider using organs from patients who have died in circumstances which would have previously ruled their organs ineligible for donation.

By resuscitating the heart doctors are able to prevent it from deteriorating and allow it to be successfully transferred to a recipient.