Donor heart beats 7 hours after removal in E China

Updated: 2015-12-19 18:03


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FUZHOU - A heart transplant in east China was successful even though the donor organ had stopped beating for seven hours after being removed from the donor.

Normally, a heart cannot be revived if it remains static for over six hours, according to doctors.

A 24-year-old patient surnamed Guan in Fuzhou, capital of eastern China's Fujian Province, needed a heart transplant due to a worsening blood clot around his heart. He found a matching donor about a three-hour drive away in the north of the province.

The donor had been pronounced brain-dead from a brain tumor but was still being sustained via a respirator.

On Dec. 3, Guan's doctor left the provincial capital at 6:00 p.m. to obtain the donor organ.

"The donor's heart had stopped beating for 10 minutes when we arrived around 9 p.m.," said Huang Xueshan, the doctor who performed the transplant. "But we managed to extract the heart in two minutes."

They immediately returned to Fuzhou and began performing the transplant around midnight.

The operation finished around 2 a.m., but the heart didn't beat at first.

Then around 4 a.m., seven hours after it was taken out of the donor, the heart resumed beating in Guan's body.

Huang said it is rare to use a heart that has already stopped beating and has been transported a long distance, but the transplant succeeded because the donor is very young and had a strong heart.

Though the heart had stopped beating, cold temperatures reduced the heart's metabolism to a minimum, preserving its energy, Huang said.

The transplant cost 150,000 to 200,000 yuan (between 23,100 to 30,800 U.S. dollars) and Guan will need to take anti-rejection medication, which costs 2000-3000 yuan per month, according to Huang.

China has around 3 million patients waiting for heart transplants, but only 250 at most are able to undergo the operation each year.