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Boston doctors recently performed a historic heart transplant after the life-saving organ was transported 2,506 miles from Alaska to Massachusetts, according to officials.
The successful surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital set a new record for the longest distance a donor heart has traveled for transplant surgery via an ice preservation system, the surgical director of MGH’s Heart Transplant Program told the Herald.
“It’s exciting to think we can now use more hearts from farther away, and better match those hearts with people who need them,” said David D’Alessandro, the surgical director of the Heart Transplant Program.
In the past, a 4- to 6-hour window has been considered a reasonably safe time for transporting a heart in a traditional ice cooler.
“Before, we would have never considered getting a heart from Alaska because 9 hours has been dangerous,” D’Alessandro said.
But now, more geographic possibilities have opened up for farther heart transports due to a technology that was invented and created in the Boston-area.
Massachusetts General Hospital used an organ preservation system from Paragonix Technologies, Inc. — which controls temperature and monitors organs throughout the transport from donor to recipient.
Because of the Paragonix SherpaPak Cardiac Transport System, the heart was able to be successfully transported 2,506 nautical miles from Juneau, Alaska to Boston.
“It’s similar to an ice cooler, but the heart stays at a slightly warmer temperature,” D’Alessandro said. “If the heart gets too cold, it can be damaged.”
This significant development could eventually open up heart transports to Europe and back. Previously, that had been considered too far.
“It is certainly possible that this system can bring hearts from Europe to America and vice versa,” the surgical director said.
The patient has been recovering well following surgery, according to officials. Due to HIPPA regulations, they cannot disclose their information as they have asked to remain private, and are focusing on their recovery.
The Paragonix SherpaPak has protected close to 3,000 donor hearts, and has been adopted by more than 80 transplant centers worldwide.
“With the shortage of organs available for transplant, and an ever-growing number of patients on the waitlist, it is critical that we enable centers to access organs from as many geographies as possible,” Lisa Anderson, CEO and president of Paragonix Technologies, said in a statement. “We are so proud to have aided the team at MGH in this monumental case that has allowed them to bring a life-saving heart from over 2,500 miles to a patient in their care.”
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