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Now, Even Older Adults and Some Cancer Patients can go for Heart Transplantation

002 guidelines for organ donation, which permitted transplantation of hearts from those over 50, even when the hearts were enlarged or the arteries feeding it were clogged, provided the clot was removed. And they are likely to increase demand for already scarce donor organs.

As of Sept. 1, at least 2,885 Americans were on waiting lists for a heart transplant, according to the latest figures from the United Network for Organ Sharing, the international coordinating body that impartially distributes donated organs. Up to 20 percent of those on the list to receive a heart will die while waiting, Russell notes.

The guidelines reaffirm the organization’s view that demand for transplantations is unlikely to ever be fully met and that more resources are needed to slow down the progression of heart failure and prevent the need for transplant surgery in the first place.

Russell says new drugs, implantable defibrillators and pacemakers, and smaller heart pumps can assist a weakened heart for longer periods, or until a donor new organ becomes available.

He estimates that the relaxed guidelines could result in up to 15 more heart transplantations for patients in the region served by Hopkins in southeastern Pennsylvania, Maryland and northern Virginia, none of whom would have qualified for an organ under the old restrictions. Nationally, he estimates, up to 400 more patients could now qualify and receive a new heart.



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