A hospital in Texas has performed a heart transplant using a new technique called donation after cardiac death (DCD) for the first time. Medical City Heart Hospital did the procedure last Thursday, according to a news report by CBS 11.
The recipient of the transplant is identified as 50-year-old Yolanda Triplett. Per CBS 11, intense treatments for breast cancer caused damage to Triplett’s heart, and she had been waiting on the transplant list since 2014.
According to the CBS 11 report, Triplett’s recovery after the procedure was swift. She was out of bed as early as a day after the transplant and was able to walk.
Doctors hope the DCD heart transplant procedure will expand the donor pool, saving more lives. “Many patients become too sick and die waiting for a heart,” says Brian Lima, MD, surgical director of heart transplantation and mechanical circulatory support at Medical City Heart Hospital. Lima further explained that the new procedure would allow medical teams to care for more lives.
With traditional heart donations, the donor must be formally declared brain dead, i.e., a person on life support has to irreversibly lose all brain function, specifically the ability to breathe on their own.
A potential donor’s heart would be ineligible for donation if the person’s heart stopped beating due to withdrawal of life support or natural causes, as there would be no way to preserve the organ outside of the body. Donors’ organs must be ‘alive’ at the time of the donor’s death.
With the new DCD heart transplant technique, a machine keeps the donor heart immersed in warm blood after being removed. This helps keep the organ ‘alive’ even after the donor is dead.
Per the CBS 11 report, the heart of the DCD donor at Medical City stopped after life support was withdrawn, causing them to suffer cardiac death.
Triplett expressed gratitude for the transplant, saying she had waited a long time for it. “I thought it would never come, and when it did, it hit me all of the sudden and I am so grateful for this wonderful gift,” she said, as reported by CBS 11.