Home Heart Transplant Heart transplant breakthrough as organ brought back to life

Heart transplant breakthrough as organ brought back to life

6 min read

A Sydney man has become the first in the world to receive a new donor heart that was kept alive in a box and scanned for disease before transplant.

Alan Crawford, 68, received the organ after suffering from chronic heart failure.

"There wasn't any real quality of life because you just couldn't predict what was going to happen," the Petersham man said.

Mr Crawford was the 26th patient at St Vincent's Hospital to receive a donor heart that was brought back to life using a portable box that was pioneered by doctors at the hospital.

The donor organ is flushed with a special preservation solution and connected to a sterile circuit within the box to keep it beating and warm.

Mr Crawford is also the first in the world to receive a donor heart that was screened using an angiogram to check for signs of damage.

Mr Crawford is also the first in the world to receive a donor heart that was screened using an angiogram to check for signs of damage.

(Nine)

Mr Crawford is also the first in the world to receive a donor heart that was screened using an angiogram to check for signs of damage.

"First of all we wouldn't normally have access to that heart," Dr Paul Jansz, Cardiothoracic Surgeon at St Vincent's Hospital, said.

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"Secondly we probably would've refused that heart because we weren't sure whether there was coronary artery disease or whether there were blockages in the arteries."

Dr Jansz says the entire process of box retrieval and testing is novel and surreal.

"Normally when we do a transplant the heart is actually still. It's in a bag and it's in ice," he said.

A Sydney man has become the first in the world to receive a new donor heart that was kept alive in a box and scanned for disease before transplant.

A Sydney man has become the first in the world to receive a new donor heart that was kept alive in a box and scanned for disease before transplant.

(Nine)

"So to see it working away there is quite reassuring.

"And then to take that box into the cath lab, it obviously raises a few eyebrows and we couldn't quite fit it in there, we had to put it on phonebooks to get it to the right height."

Their efforts and ingenuity paid off.

The donor heart was given the all-clear and Mr Crawford was given a second chance of life.

"All the planets just aligned," Mr Crawford said.

"I'm so thankful that person was on the donor list."

The heart in the box program at St Vincent's Hospital has boosted the pool of donors by about 30 percent.

Alan Crawford, 68, received the special heart transplant after suffering from chronic heart failure.

Alan Crawford, 68, received the special heart transplant after suffering from chronic heart failure. (Nine)

This latest breakthrough is likely to widen the donor pool further but Dr Jansz says they are only able to manage the tip of the iceberg as the waiting list continues to grow.

"Heart failure is the biggest killer in our society," Dr Jansz said.

He says the hospital has applied for state government funding to ensure the "heart in a box" program continues into the future.

He says the technology should be rolled out nationally given its success.

Mr Crawford continues to undergo rehabilitation at St Vincent's Hospital and is able to walk 10,000 steps a day.

He looks forward to playing with his grandchildren at the beach and will make the most of life with his new donor heart.

"Their family will never know who I am, but I can assure them, I'm going to make good use of the heart," he said.

© Nine Digital Pty Ltd 2018

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