Donation after circulatory death heart transplantation

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Purpose of review

Despite continued expansion in the use of extended-criteria donor hearts following donation after brain death, there remains an unacceptable discrepancy between the supply of suitable donor hearts and the demand from increasing recipient numbers on transplant wait lists. Until recently, the additional approach of utilizing organs following donation after circulatory death (DCD) had not been possible for clinical heart transplantation in the modern era. This review describes relevant advances in translational research and provides an update on the favourable adoption of this donation pathway for clinical heart transplantation.

Recent findings

The use of an ex-situ transportable cardiac perfusion platform together with modified cardioplegia, supplemented with postconditioning agents, has allowed three centres to report successful transplantation of distantly procured human DCD hearts. This has been achieved by utilizing either a method of direct procurement and ex-situ perfusion on the device or through an initial in-situ reanimation with extracorporeal normothermic regional perfusion prior to ex-situ perfusion.


DCD heart transplantation is feasible with excellent early outcomes. In the face of continued and significant donor organ shortage and inevitable wait list attrition, the rejection of suitable DCD hearts, in jurisdictions permitting this donation pathway, is increasingly difficult to justify.

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