NHS doctors save six kids’ lives with reanimated hearts in world-first surgery

A ground-breaking new procedure has saved six children’s lives through reanimated heart surgery.

The scientific breakthrough, known as donation after circulatory death (DCD), allows hearts to be brought back to life and kept beating outside of a human body until they’re needed for transplants.

And the work of staff from Great Ormond Street Hospital and Royal Papworth Hospital has so far given new life to six children.

The donated organs come from patients who are considered brain-dead but still have beating hearts.

Procedures of this kind were first done on adults back in 2015 but only recently have doctors been able to perform DCD operations in paediatric transplantation.

Not only does it allow more hearts to be used but the procedure dramatically reduces the pressure on doctors, as the ability to send the organs further away gives them more time.

Additionally, it also reduces the waiting times for children in need of hearts, with the number of patients previously outweighing the amount of available organs.

The breakthrough of DCD has doubled the amount of transplants done by Great Ormond Street and consultant cardiologist and transplant physician Jacob Simmonds is delighted by the programme.

He said: “In early 2020 we had more children at Gosh on the transplant list than I’d ever seen in my 16 years working at the hospital.

“Every day a child waits there is a bigger likelihood that they may get too ill even for transplantation, or worse.

“Although medical advances have come far, for some children with heart failure an organ donation is truly their only hope.

“It’s game-changing and work is already under way to make the technique suitable for our much younger and smaller patients.

“Ultimately, though, this still relies on families having conversations around their organ donation wishes, and then of course the bravery to consider making this precious, life-saving gift at a time of unimaginable tragedy.”

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