Dead Heart Is Transplanted Into Living Body

Doctors at St Vincent's Hospital in Sydney have successfully transplanted dead hearts into living people in what might be one of the technological and medical breakthroughs of the decade.

The advanced procedure has now been carried out three times with all three patients reported as a complete success.

So far doctors have only been allowed to transplant hearts from living patients who have been classified as brain dead.

This new procedure however allows doctors to successfully transplant a heart that hasn't been beating for up to 20 minutes without any damage to the heart or the recipient.

How you ask? Speaking to ABC Victor Chang Institute Executive Director Professor Bob Graham explains the complex process:

"What happens is we have a patient whose brain is almost completely gone, but they still have a little bit of brain function so they can't be classified as being dead,"

"And if the relatives agree we can turn off the life support. And when we do that the heart gradually stops beating over about fifteen minutes. We then by law have to wait another five minutes to make sure the heart has really stopped."

Once the heart has stopped it is removed and placed into a specially designed preservation solution which prevents damage through lack of oxygen.

It is then hooked up to a machine which starts the process of bringing the heart back to life by pumping oxygenated blood through it.

From there surgeons can successfully place the heart into the body of the recipient.