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Prolonged Preservation of the Heart Prior to Transplantation Picture this A man is involved in a severe car crash in Florida which has left him brain-dead with no hope for any kind of recovery The majority of his vital organs are still functional and the man has designated that his organs be donated to a needy person upon his untimely death Meanwhile upon checking with the donor registry board it is discovered that the best match for receiving the heart of the Florida man is a male in Oregon who is in desperate need of a heart transplant Without the transplant the man will most certainly die within 48 hours The second mans tissues match up perfectly with the brain-dead mans in Florida This seems like an excellent opportunity for a heart transplant However a transplant is currently not a viable option for the Oregon man since he is separated by such a vast geographic distance from the organ Scientists and doctors are currently only able to keep a donor heart viable for four hours before the tissues become irreversibly damaged Because of this preservation restriction the donor heart is ultimately given to someone whose tissues do not match up as well so there is a greatly increased chance for rejection of the organ by the recipient As far as the man in Oregon goes he will probably not receive a donor heart before his own expires Currently when a heart is being prepared for transplantation it is simply submerged in an isotonic saline ice bath in an attempt to stop all metabolic activity of that heart This cold submersion technique is adequate for only four hours However if the heart is perfused with the proper media it can remain viable for up to 24 hours The technique of perfusion is based on intrinsically simple principles What occurs is a physician carefully excises the heart from the donor He then accurately trims the vessels
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