Donor Network West, the federally designated organ procurement organization for Northern California and Northern Nevada, facilitated the identification, evaluation, and recovery of a heart from donation after circulatory death, or DCD, for the first-ever successful transplantation on the West Coast. The investigational procedure performed at UC San Diego Health could increase organ donation by up to 30 percent.
Until recently, only hearts from patients who have been declared brain dead (DBD) were recovered for transplantation in the United States because of the need to perform a functional assessment of the organ before transplant. Currently, more than 3,500 people are waiting for a lifesaving heart transplant nationally. However, wait times for a heart transplant vary and approximately 300 people die each year waiting for a heart transplant.
“Donor Network West is proud to partner with UC San Diego Health and TransMedics as a part of the Donors After Circulatory Death Heart Trial to help save and heal more lives,” said Janice F. Whaley, CEO of Donor Network West. “Through the use of this innovative new portable Organ Care System, we hope to soon be able to offer DCD hearts as a standard of care and ultimately eliminate the list of patients waiting for a lifesaving heart transplant.”
Traditionally, heart donors have been declared brain dead. After this declaration, the beating heart is stopped and recovered. The heart is then transported in a cold preservation solution, to the hospital where it is transplanted in the recipient. Because donor hearts must be transported and transplanted within four hours to minimize tissue damage caused by oxygen deprivation, available transplant recipients are limited by geography.
DCD involves recovering a heart from a hospitalized donor who has died because their heart has stopped, either naturally or because life support has been removed. The heart is removed within 30 minutes and connected to a portable Organ Care SystemTM that perfuses the heart with warm blood, reviving and keeping the heart beating for assessment and possible transplantation. The portable Organ Care System can potentially keep the heart viable for a longer time compared to traditional cold storage, which allows for transporting a heart to a recipient much further away geographically.
For years, DCD transplants in U.S. adults have been done with other organs, including the lungs, kidney, and liver. However, the heart has been the major exception for DCD transplants because its inability to pump oxygenated blood after death has meant a higher risk of damage. Other countries, including the U.K. and Australia, have been performing DCD heart transplants for several years now. The procedure was first performed by a group in Sydney’s St. Vincent’s Hospital in July 2014.
Donor Network West serves 175 hospitals within 120,000 square miles. The nonprofit organization works in partnership with families, doctors, nurses, more than 500 funeral homes, and 44 coroners and medical examiners to connect donors to recipients. To learn more about organ and tissue donation, or to register as a donor, visit your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or DonorNetworkWest.org.
About Donor Network West
Donor Network West saves and heals lives by facilitating organ and tissue recovery for transplantation. The organization was established in 1987 and is an official Donate Life organization accredited by the Association of Organ Procurement Organizations (AOPO) and the American Association of Tissue Banks (AATB). Federally designated to serve 45 counties in northern Nevada and northern California, Donor Network West partners with the Department of Motor Vehicles and the state-authorized donor registries. For information, visit DonorNetworkWest.org and follow us on social media: @mydnwest.