The Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham is one of the largest hospitals in the UK, providing medical and surgical care for patients with heart disease. The hospital is the largest solid organ transplantation centre in the UK, being one of only six nationwide.
Thanks to your support, UHB Charity and Heart Research UK brought a revolutionary piece of equipment, commonly known as ‘Heart in a Box’, to the hospital, which has changed the way that heart transplants are carried out at QEHB.
Heart in a Box allows a donor heart to keep beating outside of the body; it is stored inside a box which keeps blood flowing through the heart. The box is small and is able to be transported easily.
Previously, when heart transplants are carried out, the heart was kept in ice and stopped beating as soon as it was out of the body. Hearts kept on ice rapidly deteriorate, and the longer they are out of the body the less likely it is that the patient’s body and immune system will accept the heart. Currently, only eight out of ten people receive the heart transplant that they need and over 1,300 people in the UK die each year waiting for an organ.
The advantage of Heart in a Box is that hearts can be kept for longer periods of time, in a better condition than if they were on ice. The organ doesn’t deteriorate as quickly as blood is still flowing through it. Anti-rejection drugs can even be used to increase the chances of the patient accepting the new heart before the transplant operation takes place.
This is incredibly important for patients undergoing complex transplants and will allow hearts to be moved a greater distance than they are able to using the current methods.
Heart in a Box has the potential to increase the number of hearts available for transplant by as much as 50%, revolutionising the way that heart transplants are carried out at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham.