THE FIRST-EVER DONOR AFTER CARDIAC DEATH (DCD) HEART TRANSPLANTED AT VANDERBILT RESEARCH CENTER New heart transplant method is a paradigm changer for organ donation nationwide

Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates (KODA) announced today that a Kentucky organ donor provided a healthy heart for transplant even after that heart stopped beating.  This is only the second such procedure at the southeastern transplant center who transplanted the heart.  It is only the tenth thus far in the United States since December 2019.

Most people donate organs because their brain has ceased all function which is dying of brain death.  After being pronounced deceased, the ventilator is kept on for a short time.  This machine keeps the heart and lungs temporarily oxygenating blood that continues to pump throughout the donor’s body until the recovery of vital organs for transplant.  A brain-dead donor may be able to give the gift of life including heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, pancreas, and small intestines to a child or adult on the organ transplant waiting.

In cases of Donation after Cardiac Death (DCD), the patient is not brain dead. After a critical illness or injury and discussion with their healthcare providers, the next of kin may make the decision to withdraw life support.  In rare cases, these patients may be able to give the gift of life through organ donation after cardiac death.  

The DCD procedure involves a controlled setting for the removal of life-support, usually in the operating room. Once the patient’s heart has stopped, the organs are recovered promptly while they are still viable for transplant.

DCD is a less common form of donation but very powerful in its ability to save more lives than ever before.  In the past, it was known that kidneys, lungs and the liver could be recovered from a DCD case, but as in this unique case, heart donation is now also possible.  

This donation is made possible by a machine that allows the heart to be perfused with warm oxygenated blood after it is procured. This machine also keeping the heart functional enough to be transported and transplanted several hours after procurement.   

There have only been ten DCD heart transplants performed since the groundbreaking trial was initiated in December 2019 by Duke University. The goal by 2021 is that 15 facilities across the U.S. will be able to perform this miracle.  

“KODA is proud to have our exceptional clinical teams on the forefront of groundbreaking efforts to honor the wishes of a donor family to save lives,” states Julie Bergin, President & CEO of KODA.  “This new transplant procedure will provide extraordinary possibilities for thousands of children and adults awaiting a lifesaving heart transplant.”