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UVA Transplant Center using new technology to better preserve hearts

Published: Nov. 19, 2021 at 5:52 PM EST
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - The University of Virginia Health System has a new technology being put to use. The transplant center is moving away from the traditional approach of transporting and storing donor hearts.

Instead of using ice packs to keep the heart cool, it has now improved to Bluetooth technology to keep a more accurate temperature.

“It’s something that can actually be tracked with an app, where you can measure and see what temperature the heart is at that consistency,” UVA Health Adult Cardiac Surgeon Dr. Leora Yarboro said. “We think will provide some stability in the organ and therefore maybe increase the ability to go longer distances.”

The abilities behind the technology would allow for reaching even more patients and having more available transplant offers.

“Not only can you check on the heart, but also it has different features,” Yarboro said. “Things that we normally track - different times of timing of operation and travel, transport time and things like that.”

These features allow doctors to communicate with other parts of the team who may not be in their proximity. It ultimately creates an accurate account of what exactly is going on. UVA Health used it with a patient for the first time last week.

“The app is actually designed specifically to give us real-time data on the temperature inside the the storage system, but the other functionalities that it has, is that we can all get together on a sort of group chat,” UVA Health Cardiothoracic Fellow Kunal Patel said.

The procedure was successful and now it’s being used to improve the entire transplant process. This is crucial since hearts are a more sensitive piece.

“With timing and that sort of stuff hearts, especially compared to other organs, need to be on a very strict sort of time frame for how long they can be outside of a body and in cold storage,” Patel said. “And so I think it helps us having very specific time frames and that sort of thing to be to be accurate.”

The technology initially came out in 2010 but wasn’t commercially available until 2018. UVA Health decided to wait to use it until they knew it would show actual benefits in the quality of the organ. Though it is still one of the earlier hospitals to be using this.

“We really wanted to make sure that there was enough data behind the technology to show that there may be some improvements in patient outcomes,” Dr. Leora Yarboro said. “And one of the differences is because it maintains the heart at a consistent temperature.”

Doctors say this technology could also lead to decreased time in the ICU after surgery. They are also working to expand it for other transplants, since it has been successful with hearts.

Copyright 2021 WVIR. All rights reserved.

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