Machine 'could quadruple' heart and lung transplants

By Richard Westcott
Science correspondent, BBC News

image copyrightAaron Green
image captionAaron Green (right) said his heart and lung transplant was "incredible"

The number of heart and lung transplants could quadruple thanks to a "reanimation" machine used in a pioneering operation, a hospital says.

The device, developed at Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge, managed to pump oxygenated blood into both organs in a world-first procedure.

The machine can revitalise deteriorating organs allowing "donation after circulatory death" (DCD).

Hospital surgeon Pedro Catarino said it was like "recharging the batteries".

"It is reanimation and then it replenishes the energy stores of the heart, what we call reconditioning, which allows it be transplanted," he said.

"We think it could at least double and perhaps quadruple the number of [heart and lungs] available for transplant."

He said it was desperately needed, adding: "Patients die on the waiting list every day."

image captionPedro Catarino (left) and Simon Messer are two of the medical team at Royal Papworth Hospital

Most organs come from people who are brain dead. Crucially, doctors are able to keep their hearts beating and healthy until they are removed.

Unusually, Aaron Green's came from a donor who was circulatory dead - in other words, their heart had stopped beating and their organs had begun to decay.

"With brain death we've got four hours to get the organ from the donor into the recipient. With this circulatory death we have no more than 30 minutes to get the organ on to the machine," said Dr Catarino.

Royal Papworth Hospital has been doing DCD heart transplants for five years, but last summer it performed a heart and lung transplant using the new machine.

image captionThe team at Royal Papworth Hospital has been keeping check on Aaron Green's new organs

Mr Green, 25, is still currently the only person in the world to have a heart and lungs from a donor whose heart had stopped.

He said: "The first thing I remember was I woke up, looked at my hand and went, 'Oh, it's not blue'.

"I couldn't believe how quickly the heart and lungs kicked in - it was straight away."

Mr Green left hospital two months after the operation and was back playing cricket and riding his bike.

He also has a new job and is planning his wedding in September to his fiancée Julie Payne.

image copyrightJulie Payne
image captionAaron Green said the wedding planning with his fiancée Julie Payne was going "really well"

You can see more on this story on BBC Inside Out East on BBC One at 19:30 GMT on Monday 23 March and afterwards on the BBC iPlayer.

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