Heartbox trial: How Newcastle helped lead heart transplant innovation with a British first

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The first patient in the UK to receive a heart transplant via a new innovation known as the Heartbox has spoken of her gratitude for being involved in the trial.

Sanjana Kochhar received the transplant at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle eight months ago and credits it with giving her a new lease of life.

Usually, donor hearts are preserved during transport by being placed in a cold solution and stored in an icebox at around four degrees but that only preserves the heart for less than four hours.

The XVIVO Heartbox offers a new method. It preserves the heart by delivering blood and oxygen during the journey with the aim of keeping it in a better condition and allowing it to be stored for longer.

The Heartbox was trialled at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle. Credit: The Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

In time, it is hoped the equipment could vastly increase the distance that organs can travel and grow the pool of potential donors while also reducing the length of time patients stay in intensive care after their transplant.

Speaking to ITV Tyne Tees after one of her follow-up appointments, Ms Kochhar said: "Looking back on it now, I feel really excited that I have been part of something so innovative.

"If it can make the way that we transport organs in the future better then I think it is a really exciting thing to be a part of and I'm really glad that I have contributed to that."

Ms Kochhar was barely able to walk down the street without getting short of breath before her transplant but has now been able to go on a number of long hikes, start going to the gym and pick up jogging.

Sanjana Kochhar has said her life has been transformed after her heart transplant. Credit: ITV

"It's changed everything," she said. "I knew things would get better but I didn't think there would be such a difference.

"I just feel so grateful that I have been given this opportunity to live an almost normal life. I am really grateful to my donor so I can have a second chance at life and do all the things I've dreamt of doing."

The Freeman is one of 15 hospitals across Europe to have been involved in the Heartbox trial.

It has now concluded and researchers will start analysing the data, comparing it to those who received transplants via the conventional methods. If it has been a success the use of the Heartbox will be extended to trial bigger distances and longer times.

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