As reported in the Daily Mail, Lee Hall, from Illogan in Cornwall, was on ‘borrowed time’ after the mechanical heart that has kept him alive for the past five years began to fail. Fortunately, thanks to a pioneering technology, the young father managed to save his life.
As the video above shows, this new technology – called ‘Heart in a Box’ - keeps the donor organs pumping outside the body, by circulating warm oxygenated blood through the heart muscle.
This means that surgeons can ‘reanimate’ hearts from people who had recently died and use them to save other people’s lives. Until now, a donor heart could be maintained for up to three or four hours when using the traditional method of ice preservation.
The new technology doubles this time. Mr. Hall, who suffered from leukaemia when a child and developed heart failure after chemotherapy treatments, was only one of the patients who had already benefited from this technology.
According to the MIT Technology Review, there have been at least 15 cases in the UK and Australia where surgeons have successfully used this system in heart transplantations. Currently, not everyone who needs a heart transplant is able to receive one as there are not enough suitable organs available.
The possibility of using non-beating hearts in transplantation will, therefore, mean that many more lives can be saved.
André Simon, director of transplantation at Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust, believes that the technology can mean an extra 100 transplant operations can be performed across the country.
"The use of non-beating hearts in transplantation is a very exciting development that will ultimately help us save more lives," he told the Daily Mail.