September 28, 2022

Atrium Health uses a transplant device that helps the heart beat outside the body

CHARLOTTE, NC (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — Doctors in Charlotte have new technology that allows them to give more patients heart transplants.

Atrium Health says the hospital is one of the first places in the country to use the devices commercially.

The machines allow a heart to beat outside the body.

“The heart muscle is happy; it recovers. You rate how it goes,” Dr. Eric Skipper, Cardiothoracic Heart Transplant Surgeon, Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute told Atrium Health.

Atrium Health is now performing heart transplants using the new device to save more hearts and lives.

“This device pumps blood to the heart, collects blood from the heart, collects blood that comes out of the heart,” Dr. Skipper said.

This way of saving the heart is very different from what transplant teams have used in the past, placing the heart on ice in a cold room.

BE THE FIRST TO KNOW: Sign up here for QC News alerts and get the latest news straight to your inbox

The machine takes care of the heart after someone has been taken off life support.

Before, the heart could be damaged and could not be transplanted.

“Now these donors, after life support is taken off, their hearts can be retrieved and placed on this device and then used, which expands what we call the pool of donors,” explained cardiologist Dr. Joseph Mishkin. specializing in heart failure transplants, Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute at Atrium Health.

The device gives transplant teams more time between retrieving the heart and transplanting the organ, doubling the distance they can walk to get a heart.

📲 Download the Queen City News app to stay up to date on the go.
📧 Sign up for QC News email alerts to receive the latest news in your inbox.
💻 Find today’s top stories at for Charlotte, NC, and all of the Carolinas.

Atrium doctors say that without the devices, there is usually a four-hour window between when blood flow to the donor heart stops and when blood flow is restored to the recipient heart.

But transplant teams can extend that time by up to ten hours using the devices, meaning they can travel twice the distance to harvest a heart, from 500 miles to 1,000 miles.

“It has the potential to probably double our volume of transplants,” Dr. Mishkin said.

Give hearts to more people who desperately need them.

“Often they (patients awaiting a transplant) have difficulty doing basic daily activities,” Dr. Skipper said. “You see them 6-8 years later, and they talk about seeing their kids graduating from high school, college, they talk about their grandkids who they probably never would have seen otherwise.”

Atrium Health started using the devices about a month ago. The transplant team has performed four heart transplants with the technology.

The hospital has also used the same type of devices to transplant other organs, such as lungs and livers.