Duke Surgeons Perform a Unique Heart Transplant

On Episode 151 of Heart Health Radio, Dr. Franklin Wefald explains why doctors implanted a heart which had stopped beating.

Dr. Frank Wefald: Full disclosure. I trained in Cardiology at Duke. I know these guys. Some of them are retired. I’m old. But it’s a wonderful place. It’s a place where magic still happens. I sent some people there who I never expected to survive and they are doing great 20 years later.

Duke Surgeons Photo Credit: SHAWN ROCCO DUKE HEALTH
Click here for a link to the News and Observer Article

Dr. Frank Wefald: The biggest problem with heart transplants, we don’t have enough donors. Now we talked before on the show how we can use now the donors who…donor hearts who were drug addicts dying of overdoses who had hepatitis-C. Some doctor said, I’m taking the heart myself. He was a heart transplant surgeon and he needed a heart transplant. They thought he was crazy. They gave him the heart. He got hepatitis C but low and behold, we now have medicines that cure hepatitis C. So that’s what you do. It sounds crazy, but it works. You know, you take the pills, you get a new heart and you cure hepatitis C.

Now another thing that has changed because of Duke and the bravery and the sense of pushing into a new frontier. They are using hearts that have stopped. Now before they would say they would take a heart from somebody who is brain dead that the heart had never stopped. Well, they have incredible techniques now to preserve hearts. So, if someone’s heart has stopped and they get it going again they know now that it’s not necessarily a “bad heart”.

So, there were Type A hearts. The Type A hearts were from young individuals who were healthy, never had a sign of a heart problem who had brain death and the heart never stopped. Then there were Type B hearts and those maybe had a little cholesterol buildup from older people. They would sometimes give those to very old people who needed a heart transplant.

Well now they have elevated certain hearts that were actually stopped and required CPR but looked good and they are transplanting them. I think that’s a wonderful thing. Duke is breaking a mold and I think that we should commend them. I think this is going to open up another era where we are going to see more of the people who were dying, awaiting a heart transplant who are going to get them.

Dave Alexander: Am I wrong to interpret this as they were given a heart…?

Dr. Frank Wefald: A heart that had stopped. That had died.

Dave Alexander: This is Frankenstein.

Dr. Frank Wefald: No, because the heart never deteriorated.

Dave Alexander: OK.

Dr. Frank Wefald: When we talk about died, we’re talking about minutes here. You know.

Dave Alexander: I’m good with that.

Dr. Frank Wefald: They wouldn’t use them even if they had to do CPR for 5 or 6 minutes because they were afraid…and there was no evidence…but it was “common sense” that the heart wouldn’t be any good any more.

Dave Alexander: Sure.

Dr. Frank Wefald: Well, think about it. How many people get CPR and live for a long time? A lot.

Dave Alexander: Right. So, the heart is good?

Dr. Frank Wefald: The heart is good. It was assumed to be bad.

Also on Episode 151, Dr. Wefald discusses Vascepa, a purified Omega-3 and we talk about Dave’s uncle…who had his body frozen so that he could be warmed up once they have a cure for what killed him.

For the podcast click here.

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