A major hospital in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, has become the world's first to successfully perform a heart transplant during which the heart kept beating, with blood flowing, from the moment it was donated until the surgery was finished.
After the 4.5-hour surgery on June 26, the 67-year-old male recipient now has a sound appetite and sleeps well, with his physical movement greatly improved and the functions of his other organs recovering, said He Xiaoshun, deputy president of First Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-sen University, at a news conference in Guangzhou on July 16.
The man, identified as Feng, was discharged from the hospital on July 16.
The heart is most sensitive to injury resulting from ischemia, or lack of blood flow, and if it is left in that condition for six hours, the risk for transplantation grows significantly, He said.
Before a traditional heart transplantation, the heart is removed from the donor and stops beating. It is stored in a cold environment before it is transplanted.
Ischemia-free heart transplantation can greatly improve the therapeutic effect and lengthen the patient's life. It can also increase efficiency in using donated hearts to benefit more patients, he said.
The innovation marks a technological transformation from cold heart transplantation to warm mode and will facilitate the development of other heart surgeries, he said.
He's team performed ischemia-free liver and kidney transplants in 2017 and 2018 respectively.
The new application of the technology proves that ischemia-free organ transplantation has matured, said Huang Jiefu, chairman of the China National Organ Donation and Transplantation Committee in a video message.
Stefan G. Tullius, chief of the Division of Transplant Surgery at Brigham and Women's Hospital and professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School, said: "I consider this success to be a milestone in organ transplantation. The approach will improve organ quality. It has the potential to increase organ availability and it will certainly allow us to understand, on a scientific basis, how ischemia/reperfusion injury is impacting immune responses after transplantation."