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New trial at UW uses “heart in a box” to transport heart transplants farther to waiting donors

Posted Monday, October 12, 2015 by Tyler Goldberg-Hoss

Recently the University of Washington was one of seven heart transplant surgery sites selected to conduct a clinical trial of the Organ Care System (a/k/a OSC or “heart-in-a-box”). The OSC is a dishwasher sized, battery powered unit that works to keep a heart viable longer.

Before this clinical trial, ordinary picnic coolers with ice were used to get such transplants from the deceased donors to waiting recipients. This gave transporters only 4 hours to get it to the OR or the heart wouldn’t be useable.

Hopefully, the OCS will change that. Instead of cooling the heart, the machine works by pumping near body temperature blood and preservatives into the hearts, keeping the organ functioning. This allows more time to get the heart to the OR and the waiting patient. So far, the longest OSC has successfully preserved and transported a heart was 11 hours.

This has ramifications for patients waiting for heart transplants. Last year nearly 400 people nationally – and 94 in Washington State – died waiting for a heart transplant. With this increased time available to transport hearts, the UW has greater access to potential transplants. With this new technology, they can get hearts from as far away as Florida or the rest of the East Coast, or Hawaii, where due to the lack of heart transplant services there, otherwise useable hearts have been going to waste.

You can read more about OSC and the trial at UW here (including a short video showing the heart beating inside the OSC):

UW doctors test ‘heart in a box’ to boost scarce transplants

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