British doctors are said to have become the first in the world to perform heart transplants in children using organs brought back to life by a revolutionary machine.
Donated hearts have historically come from people who are brain dead but whose hearts are still beating, which limits the scope of the number of possible transplants.
But in London Sunday Times says surgeons at Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridgeshire were able to get hearts beating again after arresting and successfully transplanting children.
Doctors used a heart-in-a-box machine called the Organ Care System to bring hearts back to life once they were removed from the donor.
The story of a world first in childhood heart transplantation, delivered by the NHS during a global pandemic, which has saved the lives of six children since February 2020, including Anna, 16, and Freya, 14.
– Royal Papworth Hospital NHS FT 💙 (@RoyalPapworth) February 21, 2021
The machine reproduces the conditions of the human body.
Once a defibrillation pulse is used to restart the hearts, they are kept warm and receive 1.5 liters of the donor blood which passes through them in a cycle and receives nutrients.
Doctors are also able to regulate the heart rate by remote control if necessary.
The hearts were then flown to London for transplant at Great Ormond Street Hospital, the newspaper reported.
The technique had previously been tried in adults, but has now saved the lives of six British children aged 12 to 16 since last February, all with life-threatening illnesses.
We’re sharing inspiring news about a world’s first pediatric heart transplant technique that revives the heart outside the body. 💓
The technique has been successful in expanding the donor pool and increasing the number of transplants for eligible children in the UK by 50%. pic.twitter.com/LU1rt4Sath
– Great Ormond Street Hospital (@GreatOrmondSt) February 21, 2021
On average, children have to wait two and a half times longer than adults for hearts to become available.
This breakthrough is expected to result in a substantial increase in the number of donor hearts available, reduce postoperative complications, accelerate recoveries, increase transplant survival rates and save hundreds of lives.
The first patient to benefit from the procedure was Anna Hadley, now 16, of Worcester, who had waited almost two years for her heart transplant.
“I feel normal again. I can’t do anything now, ”she told the newspaper.
Dr John Forsythe, Medical Director of Organ Donation and Transplantation at NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “This new technique will save lives here and around the world.
“It means people can donate their hearts where it would not have been possible in the past, bringing patients on the waiting list to life.”