U-M Hospital Tests New, High-Tech Transport Box for Heart Transplants

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The University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor will begin testing a heart box for organ transplants that circulates blood from the donor to the heart so that it continues throbbing while in transit.

“With this method of transplantation, hearts are kept beating, allowing for organs to be transplanted longer distances so that more opportunities may arise for our patients to receive the organs they desperately need,” says Dr. Francis Pagani, a cardiac surgeon at the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center.

Traditionally, donor hearts are stored on ice and carried in a store-bought cooler, which can keep the heart viable for about four hours before it has to be discarded.

The University of Michigan is part of 12 centers participating in the clinical trial, designed to test the effectiveness of the Transmedics Organ Care System to preserve donor hearts that may not meet current standard donor heart acceptance criteria for transplantation. Pagani says the system supplies the heart with oxygen and nutrients during transport and keeps the donor heart functioning and beating at normal body temperature. The system has mostly been used in Europe.

Pagani says transplant and organ recovery teams are prepping for Michigan’s first case, including practicing transporting the device on U-M’s Survival Flight aircraft, used to rush organs to patients in need.

Pagani says 4,000 people in the U.S. are waiting for a new heart. To learn more about the study, click here.

In July, the U-M Health System will begin using new neurosurgical imaging equipment that allows for smaller incisions and a faster recovery time for patients as part of its development of four new operating rooms.

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