Surgeons Perform First US Heart Transplant Involving Donation after Circulatory Death

Duke one of five centers in nation approved for procedure

DCD transplant being performed

A Duke heart transplant team became the first in the nation to transplant an adult heart into a recipient through a process known as Donation after Circulatory Death (DCD).

Duke is one of five centers in the United States that has been approved to perform DCD heart transplants as part of a recently launched clinical trial of a device to circulate warm, oxygenated blood through organs.

Traditionally, heart donations have depended on a declaration of brain death. Donation after circulatory death occurs after the heart has stopped beating and death has been declared. DCD transplantation is performed regularly in the in the United States for organs other than the heart. DCD heart transplants have been performed in Europe and Australia.

“This procedure has the potential to expand the donor pool by up to 30 percent,” said Jacob Schroder, M.D., who performed the procedure. Schroder is surgical director of the Duke Heart Transplant Program. “Increasing the number of donated hearts would decrease the wait time and the number of deaths that occur while people are waiting.

“It’s important to conduct this clinical trial to determine whether those outcomes are realized,” Schroder said. “We are grateful for the courage and generosity of both the donors and recipients.”

The DCD heart transplantation milestone occurred Dec.1 after a donated heart was deemed viable for transplant. The recipient, a military veteran who received his heart through the Mission Act, is recovering well.