Though heart transplants have an extraordinary potential to save lives, the number of viable heart organs for transplants cannot keep up with the need. Over the past decade, more hearts have become available to bolster the volume of heart transplantation that are undergone. Sadly, much of the boom in availability has resulted from early deaths due to the opioid crisis.
Finding strategies to increase the supply of hearts for those needing transplants to has been and continues to be a priority in cardiology. These efforts include relaxing the criteria that must be met for organs to be considered appropriate for transplantation. A new study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology has explored one such route – i.e. the use of hearts from patient donors who have suffered circulatory death.
The feasibility of this approach had previously been investigated in the U.K. and Australia. In the current study, physicians found that of over 3,600 donors who had experienced circulatory death, 136 provided hearts for transplant. Analysis of donors found that they were likely to be younger (average age was 29), male, and have the blood type O. Importantly, the likelihood of graft failure, death, or other common complications was not different for this transplant group when compared to others.
While still preliminary, these data suggest that hearts coming from those who underwent circulatory death may not need to be excluded from transplantation. More research will help to determine the value that these hearts may provide to those needing heart transplant. Indeed, these hearts may help improve the availability of hearts to those who need them.
Francis D. Pagani MP. Heart Transplantation Using Organs From Donors Following Circulatory Death: The Journey Continues∗. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2022;79(2):163-165. doi:10.1016/J.JACC.2021.11.008