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Wednesday 26th June 2019

Transplant surgeons' breakthrough

4th April 2012

Transplant surgeons at a UK centre have made a breakthrough that could help hundreds of patients.

heart surgery

A surgical team from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham are now managing to save and use transplant organs that in the past would not have been available for use by keeping a donor’s blood circulating after their death.

Using extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), they kept a donor’s oxygenated blood circulating around their liver, pancreas and kidneys at a constant temperature after their death. The organs were then transplanted into waiting patients.

Liver transplant surgeon Mr Paolo Muiesan said: “Usually after brain death we flush and store the organs with cold solutions, but the organs can sustain some damage.

“This time after the donor died we used ECMO to continue to pump their own blood around the abdomen for two hours. This improved the functioning of the organs.”

The process meant that the organs were healthier and less likely to be damaged than in a conventional retrieval when dead donor organs can go several hours without a blood supply during transfer to a recipient.

The process now means that organs that would previously have been considered unusable can now be made available for transplant, which will benefit hundreds of patients because there is a shortage of organs for transplant across the NHS.

Mr Muiesan added: “The transplant community has been trying for 20 years to research ways of preserving organs by looking at better ways of optimising, resuscitating and storing them. My prediction is that we are doing this with ECMO.”


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