System keeps transplant heart beating even outside body
Despite the number of people who die daily in the world, organs that are suitable for transplantation are difficult to achieve because they can only be extracted from brain-dead patients. The organs of people who have died from accidents or other causes usually deteriorate very quickly due to lack of tissue oxygenation.
However, that may change soon, at least when we talk about transplant hearts. Transmedics, a medical technology company, has developed a system that keeps the heart beating outside the human body. Called “heart in the box” only, the device continuously pumps blood and electrolytes into the organ, which keeps the tissues healthy longer, increasing their viability.
So far the technology has been used to perform at least 15 successful transplants in the UK and Australia, according to the MIT Technology Review website report. However, although the company is headquartered in the state of Massachusetts, US regulators are still debating whether using the system does not violate the medical ethics of that country.
"Heart in the box" in action - Image: Transmedics
Ethics experts debate how long surgeons should wait before removing a heart that has stopped beating. According to Harvard University ethicist Robert Truog, this tends to be ignored because the donor is already technically dead, and the priority immediately becomes the recipient. The final decision, however, should usually come from the family of the deceased.
The concern would be whether speeding up organ collection would not be taking the chances that the donor could recover or if the organ would not be injured, but for the ethics expert this is not the case. The value of technology has also been debated, as each device costs $ 250, 000 and is not yet automated enough. If the system is regulated, it is estimated that the number of eligible donors will increase by 15 to 30%.
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