SJ Messer, RG Axell, S Colah, PA White, M Ryan, AA Page, B Parizkova, K Valchanov, CW White, DH Freed, E Ashley, J Dunning, M Goddard, J Parameshwar, CJ Watson, T Krieg, A Ali, S Tsui, SR Large
J Heart Lung Transplant
BACKGROUND: After a severe shortage of brain-dead donors, the demand for heart transplantation has never been greater. In an attempt to increase organ supply, abdominal and lung transplant programs have turned to the donation after circulatory-determined death (DCD) donor. However, because heart function cannot be assessed after circulatory death, DCD heart transplantation was deemed high risk and never adopted routinely. We report a novel method of functional assessment of the DCD heart resulting in a successful clinical program. METHODS: Normothermic regional perfusion (NRP) was used to restore function to the arrested DCD heart within the donor after exclusion of the cerebral circulation. After weaning from support, DCD hearts underwent functional assessment with cardiac-output studies, echocardiography, and pressure-volume loops. In the feasibility phase, hearts were transported perfused before evaluation of function in modified working mode extracorporeally. After the establishment of a reliable assessment technique, hearts with demonstrable good function were then selected for clinical transplantation. RESULTS: NRP was instituted in 13 adult DCD donors, median age of 33 years (interquartile range [IQR], 28-38 years), after a median ischemic time from withdrawal to perfusion of 24 minutes (IQR, 21-29; range, 17-146 minutes). Two of 4 hearts in the feasibility phase were unsuitable for transplantation after functional assessment. Nine DCD hearts were transplanted in the clinical phase, with 100% survival. The median intensive care duration was 5 days (IQR, 4-5 days), with 2 patients requiring mechanical support. There were no episodes of rejection (total, 1,436 patient-days; range, 48-297). During the same period, we performed 20 standard heart transplants using brain-dead donors. CONCLUSIONS: NRP allows rapid reperfusion and functional assessment of the DCD donor heart, ensuring only viable hearts are selected for transplantation. This technique minimizes the risk of primary graft dysfunction and maximizes confidence in DCD heart transplantation, realizing a 45% increase in our heart transplant activity.