Doctors at Duke University Hospital Perform First DCD Heart Transplant in U.S.

A heart transplant team at Duke University Hospital became the first in the U.S. to transplant an adult heart into a recipient through a process known as Donation after Circulatory Death, or DCD.

Duke is one of five centers in the United States that has been approved to perform DCD heart transplants as part of a recently launched clinical trial of a device to circulate warm, oxygenated blood through organs.

Traditionally, heart donations have depended on a declaration of brain death. Donation after circulatory death occurs after the heart has stopped beating and the person’s death has been declared. DCD transplantation is done regularly in the U.S. for organs other than the heart, although DCD heart transplants have been conducted in Europe and Australia.

“This procedure has the potential to expand the donor pool by up to 30 percent,” said Jacob Schroder, M.D., who performed the transplant and is surgical director of  Duke's Heart Transplant program. “Increasing the number of donated hearts would decrease the wait time and the number of deaths that occur while people are waiting.

“It’s important to conduct this clinical trial to determine whether those outcomes are realized,” Schroder said. “We are grateful for the courage and generosity of both the donors and recipients.”

The DCD heart transplantation milestone occurred Sunday after a donated heart was deemed viable for transplant. The recipient, a military veteran who received his heart through the Mission Act, is recovering well.

Schroder, Chetan Patel, M.D., medical director of Duke’s Heart Transplant program, and other members of the Duke transplant team are available for interviews.

Please contact Sarah Avery to arrange an interview: or 919-660-1306.