In Britain the numbers of heart transplants are on the decline. This is because the supply and the demand are not balanced properly. Hence the doctors at the Papworth Hospital in Cambridge pioneered an operation in which the heart was kept beating for five hours after it was removed from the donor. The first patient in Britain to receive a beating heart transplant was Michael Burt, 58, a builder from Burnham Market, Norfolk.
The transplanted heart was removed from a donor at Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge. The heart was kept beating for five hours by connecting it to a machine. Surgeons hope that this new technique would extend the life-saving operation to more patients by making more hearts available for transplant. Mr Burt volunteered to be part of a trial to experiment the new technique. After the transplant he told the Eastern Daily Press that he plans to enjoy his life and to live another 20 years. He said that he was very grateful to the surgeons and the team at Papworth.
The Organ Care System which was built by the US Company Transmedics kept the heart beating until it was transplanted. This machine is of great help because organs tend to deteriorate quickly after taken from the body and hospitals operate a limit of about four hours on using a non-beating donor heart. But by this technique the organ is kept in a functional condition and the number of organs available for transplant and the number of potential recipients could be broadened.
Professor Bruce Rosengard, who led the team, said that they were extremely excited by the possibilities the new technique could offer to the society. It could significantly increase the number of donor hearts available. The heart is taken out and is prepared for 20 minutes and then it is moved in to the machine which gives it oxygen and nutrient-filled blood. By this way the heart is kept beating for a period of at least eight to 12 hours. Professor John Wallwork, the transplant surgeon at Papworth, said that the potential for this device is enormous and that transport of hearts over longer distances across Europe would be made possible. It is also possible to take sub-standard hearts and then make them better.