Veteran receives first-of-its-kind heart transplant at Duke University Hospital

Durham County News

Photo courtesy of Duke Health

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DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — History has been made at Duke University Hospital after a heart transplant team became the first in the U.S. to transplant an adult heart into a recipient through a process known as Donation after Circulatory Death, or DCD.

According to a news release, Duke is one of five centers in the United States that has been approved to perform DCD heart transplants as part of a recently launched clinical trial of a device to circulate warm, oxygenated blood through organs.

Traditionally, heart donations have depended on a declaration of brain death. 

This new form of heart transplant happens after circulatory death occurs after the heart has stopped beating and the person’s death has been declared.

DCD transplantation is done regularly in the U.S. for organs other than the heart, although DCD heart transplants have been conducted in Europe and Australia.

“This procedure has the potential to expand the donor pool by up to 30 percent,” said Jacob Schroder, M.D., who performed the procedure at Duke over the weekend and is surgical director of Duke’s Heart Transplant Program in the Department of Surgery. “Increasing the number of donated hearts would decrease the wait time and the number of deaths that occur while people are waiting.

“It’s important to conduct this clinical trial to determine whether those outcomes are realized,” Schroder said. “We are grateful for the courage and generosity of both the donors and recipients.”

The DCD heart transplantation milestone occurred Sunday after a donated heart was deemed viable for transplant. The recipient, a military veteran who received his heart through the Mission Act, is recovering well. 

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