Duke performs US' 1st pediatric heart transplant using new method

Durham, N.C.-based Duke University Hospital has successfully performed the country's first pediatric heart transplant using the donation after circulatory death method, the hospital said Sept. 9. 

 The method allows surgeons to revive the heart after it has stopped beating. Donor hearts are then connected to an organ preservation system to maintain the organ's pumping action. 

As the technology is only approved for use in adults, Duke surgeons received compassionate use approval from the FDA to perform the DCD transplant on a 14-year old patient. 

The eight-hour procedure was performed Aug. 31 on Nae Rice, a pediatric patient born with a gene deletion system. In February, she was hospitalized at Duke with critical heart failure and received a left ventricular assist device, her family told Spectrum News 1. However, the LVAD acted as a bridge to transplant and was not a long term solution. Duke physicians contacted Nae's family in June to tell them she was eligible for a transplant using the DCD method. 

"This is a landmark achievement for children with end-stage heart failure," said Joseph Turek, MD, PhD, chief of pediatric cardiac surgery at Duke. "Children are, unfortunately, an underserved population when it comes to innovation, adaptation of technology and clinical trials. It is our duty to advocate for them and to continue to advance the care in pediatric medicine."

Dr. Turek and Benjamin Bryner, MD, retrieved the donated heart while Nick Anderson, MD, and Jacob Shroder, MD, led the transplant procedure. 

In 2019, Duke surgeons were also the first in the country to perform a DCD heart transplant in an adult.

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