Dead Hearts Brought Back to Life … for Many More Transplants!


ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire)— Three-hundred thousand Americans die each year from congestive heart failure. Three-thousand patients will have access to a donor heart in the U.S., which means that only one percent of the people that need a heart get it in time. But now a new innovative organ care system is making more hearts available to those who need them. dead heart brought back to life.

For more than two years, George Martin battled the side effects from a severe case of swine flu.

“I ended up to the point where I couldn’t even put on flip flops, my feet were so swollen,” recalled George Martin.

The flu destroyed his heart muscles, and he was diagnosed with congestive heart failure.

“It attacked my heart; it enlarged my heart, it wiped out the left side of my heart basically,” George shared.

He was placed on the transplant list for a new heart and was called twice for available donor hearts, only to find out later they were not viable.

“When they’re on the waitlist, they’re living life in limbo,” illustrated Scott Silvestry, MD, surgical director of transplant programs at AdventHealth Transplant Institute.

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Most transplants are from donors who are brain dead since doctors are still able to assess the working heart. But now, dead hearts can be brought back to life with the help of TransMedics organ care system.

“The heart is actually put on a big pump where it gets oxygenated blood, and we monitor the metabolism of the heart,” Dr. Silvestry described.

“We’re able to reanimate the heart, and we’re able to assess the function of the heart, and we’re able to transport the heart and bring it back here,” Don Botta, MD, heart transplant surgeon at AdventHealth.

This machine keeps a heart viable for six to eight hours after it initially stops beating compared to four to six hours for standard heart transplants.

“It has the potential to save three to four thousand additional patients a year where they need a heart transplant to live,” explained Dr. Silvestry.

George was one of the first two patients to have this done at his hospital— and he is very grateful!

“It just opens up a world of possibilities,” George shared.

George is a part of the TransMedics’ clinical trial for the organ care system. The trial is currently in progress in 12 transplant centers across the country, and so far in its year and a half span, 40 hearts have been utilized.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Executive Producer; Addlyn Teague, Field Producer; Milvionne Chery, Field Producer; Roque Correa, Videographer & Editor.

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REPORT:  MB #4853

HEART TRANSPLANT/DONATION: A heart transplant is a surgical procedure in which a failing, diseased heart is replaced with a healthier donor heart. Currently, 4,000 people in the United States are on the national transplant list waiting for a donor heart. Heart transplants are performed when there are no other treatments available for an individual in heart failure. Heart failure in adults can be caused by coronary artery disease (CAD); a weakening of the heart muscle (cardiomyopathy); valvular heart disease; a problem present at birth (congenital heart defect); or the failure of a previous transplant. In children, heart failure is most often the result of a congenital heart defect or cardiomyopathy. A heart transplant requires a heart donation from an individual who is declared brain dead and on a ventilator. Most transplant candidates wait for some length of time because there are more people in need of a transplant than there are deceased donors. Transplant candidates are placed on the national waiting list. When a donor heart becomes available, transplant candidates are matched based on medical urgency, distance from the donor hospital and pediatric status. Blood type, body size and other medical information are key factors in the matching process for all organs.


CIRCULATORY DEATH: Circulatory death is the irreversible loss of function of the heart and lungs. Some people with non-survivable injuries to the brain never become brain dead because they retain some minor brain stem function. In these circumstances donation after circulatory death might be an option.


HEART DONATON AFTER CIRCULATORY DEATH: Heart donation after circulatory death utilizes a donor heart that is no longer beating and is evaluated via a groundbreaking process under a clinical trial using the TransMedics Organ Care system. The machine allows the heart to not only be perfused with warm blood after it has been removed from the donor, keeping the heart functional and alive enough to be transported and transplanted several hours after retrieval, but also allows surgeons to assess the heart’s functionality in a way that was not previously possible. Donation after circulatory death heart transplantation gives hope to patients and physicians faced with a growing organ shortage across America. As Scott Silvestry, MD., Surgical Director, Thoracic Transplant Programs at Advent Health Transplant Institute states, “In the TransMedics trial, the heart is put on a big pump where it gets oxygenated blood, and we monitor the metabolism of the heart. When certain metabolic parameters are met, we know that the heart is good enough. So, we would not look at the heart and say this comes from a young person or an old person. We simply look at the metabolism of the heart after it is jumpstarted again and make decisions about whether it will be a suitable to go into someone and help them live the rest of their life normally.”

(Sources:,, Scott Silvestry, MD, Surgical Director of Transplant Programs, AdventHealth Transplant Institute)




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Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Scott Silvestry, MD, Surgical Director, Thoracic Transplant Programs

Read the entire Q&A