YOUR HEALTH: Innovative transplants

Doctors are using not-so-perfect donor hearts to give people a second chance at living.
Published: Jul. 17, 2023 at 8:50 AM CDT
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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah. (IVANHOE NEWSWIRE) - Doctors are using not-so-perfect donor hearts to give people a second chance at living.

The efforts could address a big problem. Right now, more than 3,500 people are waiting for a heart transplant, and many of those people will die while waiting for a transplant.

“There’s a big gap between the number of patients that are awaiting organs and then the number of organs available every year for transplantation,” said Dr. Josef Stehlik, a transplant cardiologist at the University of Utah.

To address the problem, doctors at the University of Utah are using hearts that would not have been acceptable a few years ago for transplantation. This includes hearts that are infected with hepatitis C.

“There have been new medications developed that are curative for hepatitis C, so, antiviral medications that will eliminate the virus,” Dr. Stehlik further explained.

Even if the donor has not received treatment for hepatitis C before death, Dr. Stehlik said they can transplant the organ.

“While the virus will be transmitted to the recipient, we’ll provide treatment for hepatitis C and eliminate the virus fully within the first weeks after heart or other solid organ transplantation,” Dr. Stehlik said.

Dr. Stehlik said using hearts infected with hepatitis C for transplants can add an additional 200 transplants in the U.S. alone.

Although hepatitis C is the first infected hearts being used for transplantation, Dr. Stehlik believes that in the future, HIV-infected hearts could also be viable for transplantation.

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