Health Care Science and Innovation

Innovation helps meet increasing demand for heart transplants

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At the beginning of 2023, more than 200 Floridians were on the waiting list for a heart transplant – one of the longest lists of any state in the country.

“The success of physicians in treating patients at earlier stages of their heart disease has led to older patients who are alive with chronic heart disease, and those people need transplants now,” Dr. Scott Silvestry, thoracic transplant surgical director at the AdventHealth Transplant Institute, told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

The organ care device can extend the life of hearts prior to transplant.
AdventHealth uses the Organ Care System to extend the life of hearts prior to transplant. The transplant institute was one of the test sites of the device, which is now FDA approved.

AdventHealth is embracing new technology to make heart transplants more accessible for more patients every year. The transplant institute was one of the study sites in 2020 for a newly FDA-approved technique that is helping save lives in some of the most dire circumstances.

Donation after Cardiac Death (DCD) is a groundbreaking process that uses the Transmedics Organ Care System, a machine that keeps a heart viable for donation hours after it has stopped.

“The hearts that will be transplanted as a result of this technology would have been buried before,” Silvestry said. “Instead, they’ll save lives of people like George Martin and hopefully many more Central Florida residents.”

George Martin, 49, was the first recipient of a heart transplant using the DCD system in Florida. The Belleview resident had twice before been told a donor heart was available only to later learn that the organ was not viable. Since Martin’s transplant, AdventHealth has performed more than a dozen successful DCD transplants.

“The next day I was up walking,” Martin, a Navy veteran and an engineer for Lockheed Martin, said. “From an engineering standpoint, the technology was something that appealed to me. It’s just a blessing.”

George Martin was the first patient in Florida to receive a DCD heart.
George Martin was the first patient in Florida to receive a heart transplant donation using a new process called donation after cardiac death.

Silvestry says the future will bring more improvements in care for those who require transplants. “I think you will see an improvement in the success rates for using organs from greater distances and a greater percentage of hearts offered will be used because the technology being introduced will become more widespread.”

Signing up to be an organ donor is quick and easy. Anyone can be a donor regardless of age, religion, race and nationality.

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