Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Selection and procurement of hearts for transplantation.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1984; 288 doi: (Published 23 June 1984) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1984;288:1889
  1. T A English,
  2. P Spratt,
  3. J Wallwork,
  4. R Cory-Pearce,
  5. D Wheeldon


    The success of orthotopic heart transplantation depends wholly on satisfactory function of the new heart on completion of the operation. This in turn depends on the quality of the donor heart before its removal, the effectiveness of the methods used to preserve it during transport from the donor to the recipient hospital, and the accuracy of the operative procedure. From January 1979 to December 1983, 62 donor hearts were transplanted into 61 recipients at Papworth Hospital. These hearts were selected from 250 offered for consideration. The most common reasons for not proceeding with an initial inquiry were failure of the donor to meet the medical criteria for selection (77 cases) and lack of intensive care facilities or staff shortages such that a transplant could not be accommodated at the time of inquiry (80). Eight early deaths occurred, of which three were due to primary failure of the donor heart. Actual one and three year survivals for the whole programme were 58% and 50% respectively, the current actual one year survival being 70%. Forty per cent of patients selected for transplantation died while waiting for a heart to become available. Their average survival time was 46 days. The number of donor hearts referred for transplantation depends on public attitudes towards organ transplantation, the willingness of doctors looking after brain dead patients to seek permission from relatives for the heart to be donated, and the cooperation of local kidney transplant surgeons. A larger number of suitable donor hearts to choose from would enable more patients to be treated, as transplant operations could be arranged so that existing facilities were used to their maximum capacity.