'Heart in a box'

Theatre staff looking at equipment Harefield was the first transplant centre in the UK to adopt the ground-breaking Organ Care System (OCS), also known as 'heart in a box', as its method of storing and transporting donor hearts for transplantation. 

The service began using the technology in 2013 because of the number of donor organs surgeons had to decline due to distance or unsuitability. 

The system is a huge leap forward from the conventional ice preservation method for organ storage and transplantation. It infuses a donor heart with warm, oxygen-rich blood - effectively keeping the heart beating, just as it would inside the body, until it can be transplanted into a patient. 

Instead of needing to be used within three hours, as is the case with ice preservation, a donated organ can be kept viable for between eight and 12 hours, enabling patients at Harefield to receive organs from as far away as Scotland. 

Increasing the pool of potential organ donors in this way mean that there is more chance of a suitable new heart being found for someone on the waiting list. 

Harefield's theatres have carried out more transplants using OCS than any other transplant centre in the world - 144 since its adoption. 

Mr Andre Simon, director of transplantation, commented: "For us, the organ care system has become the gold standard for organ retrieval - we use it for every single heart transplant patient. Firstly, it means we can treat more patients. Secondly, it means patients recover more quickly, so spend less time on intensive care and in hospital after their transplant. We have also reduced the incidence of post-transplant heart failure."

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