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Heart-in-a-box clinical trial saves lives

The Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation® is participating in a revolutionary trial of a “Heart-in-a-Box” system that keeps hearts harvested for transplants beating and supplied with blood and oxygen during transport.

One of the difficulties in heart transplantation is the short time-window for when a heart can be harvested and transplanted. According to The Alliance, a leadership organization in organ donation and transplantation, a heart transplant must occur within six hours. The longer the heart is outside the body, not beating, and on ice, the less likely the heart will be viable.



Because of this many donated hearts become unusable. Currently, only about 4 percent of organ donors’ hearts qualify for transplant, and of these, only about 30 percent are used in transplants because of lack of a suitable match or time restrictions. Estimates are that about 30 to 40 donor hearts go unused every year because of this six-hour window.1

To address this limitation, TransMedics created the Organ Care System (OCS™) Heart sometimes referred to as “Heart-in-a-Box,” a revolutionary system that preserves donor hearts, keeping them beating and supplied with blood and oxygen during transportation. According to Transmedics: “The OCS™ Heart system acts as a miniature intensive care unit that keeps organs alive and healthy by preserving them in a natural state that mimics the human body, so that organs can remain viable for transplant along the way to recipients.”

Benefits include:

  •          Longer window of time for transplantation
  •          Reduced ischemic time (time a heart is outside the body, not beating)
  •          Increased geographic range, allowing the heart to reach a matched recipient
  •          More transplantations

MHIF is one of 10 centers nationally participating in the EXPAND Heart Trial to study the effectiveness of the OCS™ Heart system, which is the only system currently under FDA review for unutilized donor hearts. Since August 2019, MHIF’s heart failure researchers in partnership with the Abbott Northwestern Hospital Heart Transplant program have completed three successful heart transplants using the Heart-in-a-Box system.




“We are honored to have had the opportunity to play a part in giving three patients a second chance at life and pleased that these patients have had very successful outcomes,” said Dr. Karol Mudy, a Minneapolis Heart Institute® cardiothoracic surgeon and MHIF researcher who serves as principal investigator on MHIF’s trial. “We are excited to be researching this unique system that may hold the potential to help save many more lives.”

Article provided by Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation®, which strives to create a world without heart and vascular disease. To achieve this bold vision, it is dedicated to improving the cardiovascular health of individuals and communities through innovative research and education.”