Clinical trial could expand number of United States heart donors

The Michigan Daily | Sophie Sherry

University of Michigan doctors will soon participate in a clinical trial that could transform heart transplants in the United States.

Since the first heart transplant surgery nearly 40 years ago, the methods of transporting a donor heart from hospital to hospital have remained the same. The donor heart is retrieved, placed in a bag of saline inside of a bag of ice then inside another bag of ice and stored in a cooler. This current technique allows the heart to be in transit for four to six hours, with transplantation becoming increasingly riskier after four.

The new clinical trial test the effectiveness of the Transmedics Organ Care System which continues to circulate blood to the donor heart while in transit, theoretically allowing the heart to be in transit for a greater period of time. It also enables doctors to use hearts from extended criteria donors — older donors who may have experienced health issues in the past.

The University of Michigan Health System is one of 12 programs participating in the clinical trial, testing the effectiveness of the system in comparison to traditional methods. Frank Pagani, surgical director of the Adult Heart Transplant Program, and cardiologist Keith Aaronson are two of the University doctors working on the clinical trial. Continue reading 
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