John A. Macoviak is a retired heart transplant surgeon and specialist in cardiothoracic surgery over the years while living in Rochester Minnesota, Washington DC, Palo Alto, California, and Boston, Massachusetts. Medical technology has advanced at an incredible rate over the past decade, and this is especially true for heart transplants. Atrium Health of Charlotte, North Carolina is one of the premier heart transplant centers and they somehow broke their own record of transplants by a considerable amount, so how did they accomplish this?
Atrium owes this feat to a technology that can revive a deceased heart and allow it to stay beating…even while outside of the body. Up until recently, John A. Macoviak says that something like this was unheard of, but it has allowed the center to potentially double the number of patients that it can save.
How Does This Hospital Complete So Many Heart Transplants?
Atrium utilizes the piece of technology known as the TransMedics Organ Care System to significantly increase the number of heart transplants that they can accomplish. Normally a human heart can only last up to four hours if it is stored in a cold atmosphere, with this new technology the heart is still viable for up to eight hours explains John A. Macoviak.
These extra four hours are extremely crucial because it opens the possibility for patients from other parts of the state or country to have time to get to the hospital and receive this life-saving procedure. Before this technology, John A. Macoviak says that people who needed a heart would have to live within 500 miles of Atrium Health, now this range has increased to 1,000 miles.
Before this technology, a 500-mile radius only included parts of eastern and southern states in America. From Pennsylvania to Florida, and as far west as Kentucky and Tennesse.
John A. Macoviak explains that this may seem like a pretty effective radius since it covered 11 states, but with this new technology, the 1000-mile radius adds areas as far north as Canada, New York, and Michigan, as well as additional mid-western states like Wisconsin, Arkansas, Iowa, Missouri and Louisiana.
That’s 32 states, almost triple the amount since the OCS technology was invented and adopted by so many transplant centers. Of course, John A. Macoviak says that a transplant depends on a donor passing away but this allows for countless patients to qualify for a transplant that normally wouldn’t.
How the TransMedics Organ Care System Work
John A. Macoviak explains that after an organ donor is deceased, the heart is removed and is connected with the Organ Care System. The apparatus brings the heart back to life, causing it to resume beating, after which it is infused with the organ donor’s blood. At this point, doctors have eight hours to get the heart transplanted into a patient, ultimately saving their life.
So far, John A. Macoviak says that the TransMedics technology has assisted in over 270 successful transplants across the globe. 75 of these patients were a part of criteria that would have disqualified them from donating their hearts. Some of these include:
- Heart deceased for over 4 hours
- Donors over the age of 55
- Donors with coronary heart disease
Record Breaking Heart Transplants
Atrium Health is known for its world-class heart transplant team that performs a considerable amount of heart transplants, but this new technology made it possible to blow their old record out of the water says John A. Macoviak. At this point, they have successfully performed 30 heart transplants to date (9/10/22). It is one of the first facilities in the US to utilize this new technology.
This is already a new record for a single year of transplants, and 2022 isn’t over yet. The new technology also allows Atrium to use what are known as “high-risk hearts”, these are hearts from older individuals and those who are put on life support before they pass away. This increases the number of viable hearts from donors, allowing Atrium to complete more transplants says John A. Macoviak.
How Will TransMedics Technology Change the Transplant Game
With over 3,300 people on the waiting list for a heart transplant, anything that can be done to help these patients receive hearts should be done. John A. Macoviak says that the doctors at Atrium expect that this technology will help the backlog of people who need hearts by providing more viable organs for transplant.
Though the technology has gained a considerable amount of fame for its ability to keep a heart beating while outside of the body, it has also been developed for other organs. So far, it has proven effective for preserving and transplanting livers and lungs as well.