By LAURAN NEERGAARD
Most transplanted hearts are from donors who are brain dead, but new research shows a different approach can be just as successful and boost the number of available organs.
It’s called donation after circulatory death, a method long used to recover kidneys and other organs but not more fragile hearts. Duke Health researchers said Wednesday that using those long-shunned hearts could allow possibly thousands more patients a chance at a lifesaving transplant — expanding the number of donor hearts by 30%.
“Honestly if we could snap our fingers and just get people to use this, I think it probably would go up even more than that,” said transplant surgeon Dr. Jacob Schroder of Duke University School of Medicine, who led the research. “This really should be standard of care.”
The usual method of organ donation occurs when doctors, through careful testing, determine someone has no brain function after a catastrophic injury — meaning they’re brain-dead. The body is left on a ventilator that keeps the heart beating and organs oxygenated until they’re recovered and put on ice…