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Spectrum News: Surgeons Believe Transplant Medical Device Could Save More Patients

Spectrum News recently featured the story of heart transplant patient Donald Stivers and the new "Heart in a Box" medical device that Cedars-Sinai cardiothoracic surgeon Dominic Emerson, MD, used to save Stivers' life.

Despite a lifelong heart condition, Stivers had enjoyed horseback riding, hiking in the mountains and cliff diving. But at 74 years old, his condition had worsened, and he faced a prognosis of only six to 12 months to live.

A heart transplant was his only option for survival, but it seemed like a longshot. Finding a heart for a man his age and size–over 6 feet tall–would be difficult.

To improve his odds, Stivers volunteered for the OCS Heart clinical trial at Cedars-Sinai, which is testing a "Heart in a Box" system that can keep donor organs viable longer and reach recipients farther away. Under normal conditions, donor hearts can only last about four hours outside the body on ice.

"We are able to utilize organs that would otherwise potentially have gone to waste either because they are far away, or there are other reasons that we have to investigate their function," said Emerson, associate surgical director of Heart Transplant and Mechanical Circulatory Support at Cedars-Sinai, in an interview with Spectrum News.

He estimated that the "Heart in a Box" device, which is under FDA review, could enable his team to perform as many as 15 additional transplants a year. That would be life-changing for patients like Stivers, who received a new heart in March that traveled from Hawaii.

"It’s like you get your life to start over again," Stivers told Spectrum News.

Click here to watch the complete story on Spectrum News.