Number of Transplants and Outcomes Have Potential for Improvement
Heart transplantation programs world-wide face a number of daunting challenges regarding the number of transplants performed, patient outcomes, and cost of patient care.
Waiting List Exceeds Available Hearts
Heart transplantation is widely considered the only long-term cure for end-stage heart failure. Demand for heart transplantation is strong and growing -- the waiting lists represent only a small fraction of the patients who would benefit from the procedure. However, transplant programs cannot meet patient demand, leaving many to die on the waiting list.
Outcomes Can Be Improved
Those patients fortunate enough to receive a heart transplant generally experience substantial survival and quality of life benefits. That said, the procedure is not without risks. Despite medical advances over the past two decades, mortality and complication rates, particularly immediately after transplant and during the first year, remain significant.
Cold Storage Method is Limiting
One of the factors contributing to these difficulties is the current method of heart preservation: cold storage.
Number of Retrievable Hearts is Constrained
Cold storage significantly limits the number of hearts that can be retrieved for a safe transplant. Despite the desperate need for organs, seven hearts from every ten organ donors go unutilized in part because of the inability of the cold storage approach to adequately preserve certain types of hearts or hearts that are at great distance and because this method only gives physicians limited ability to check the status of the harvested organ prior to transplantation.
Heart Quality and Function Can Deteriorate
Cold storage can allow quality & function of donated hearts to deteriorate before they are transplanted into a Recipient.
Fortunately, another heart preservation method with the potential to overcome these challenges is available in Europe.
1,2Source: Eurotransplant, 2010 Annual Report.