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Duke Performs First U.S. Pediatric Heart Transplant Using New Method

Story by Sarah Avery – Surgeons at Duke University Hospital successfully performed a “donation after circulatory death” (DCD) heart transplant in a pediatric patient, demonstrating the potential expansion of eligible donor hearts for children with heart failure.

The transplant occurred Aug. 31 and is the first pediatric patient in the U.S. to undergo a DCD transplant using the organ preservation technology developed by Transmedics. A small number of children received early versions of DCD transplant — which uses organs that are retrieved from donors with no cardio-respiratory function — starting in the 1980s, but the method had limitations.

The organ preservation technology, which maintains the heart’s pumping action, received FDA approval this week for adult heart donations after brain death. For their 14-year-old patient, Duke surgeons received a special compassionate use approval from the FDA to use the technology for the DCD transplant.

“This is a landmark achievement for children with end-stage heart failure,” said Joseph Turek, M.D., Ph.D., chief of pediatric cardiac surgery at Duke who, along with Benjamin Bryner, M.D., retrieved the donated organs. Nick Andersen, M.D., and Jacob Schroder, M.D., led the eight-hour surgery, which also included a team of four nurses.

“Children are, unfortunately, an underserved population when it comes to innovation, adaptation of technology and clinical trials,” Turek said. “It is our duty to advocate for them and to continue to advance the care in pediatric medicine.”

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