Solving the dilemma of not enough hearts

MEDICAL XPRESS | American Heart Association

Credit: American Heart Association
In the not-too-distant future, Dr. Jennifer Cowger envisions a cardiac transplant landscape where more donations are encouraged and utilized, genetically engineered organs can be created in a laboratory, and improved mechanical devices eliminate the need for an actual human heart.

But in the meantime, there's a shortage.

"We've come a long way, but there is still a definite mismatch between supply and demand," said Cowger, a cardiologist and transplant specialist who directs the Mechanical Circulatory Support Program at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit. "If you have a patient listed today for transplant, the average wait is going to be 1½ to two years. It's nothing like on Grey's Anatomy, where a heart somehow shows up right away."

In 2017, there were 3,244 heart transplants in the United States, according to the federal Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network.

"That's an all-time record, but there continue to be close to 4,000 people on the waiting list," said Dr. Matthias Peltz, surgical director of cardiac transplantation at UT Southwestern in Dallas.

In a Journal of the American College of Cardiology article last year, Cowger summarized the transplant dilemma and the possible means of addressing it. Among her points: continue reading
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