Heart in a Box

Transporting A ‘Heart In A Box’ Is A Great Advance, Says Dr Mark Plunkett

The first successful heart transplant operation in the world was carried out by Dr. Christiaan Barnard in South Africa in December 1967. From that time until the present day, the only accepted way to preserve a donor heart has been to pack it in ice inside a cooler box. Even then, the heart will usually only be viable, and capable of being transplanted, for between four to six hours.

The existing system is that donor hearts are transported in their cool boxes between hospitals by the speediest means possible. Depending on geography, this usually means the heart is sent either by road, air, or a combination of the two. The problems of this are obvious; traffic jams, bad weather, or mechanical difficulties can cause such serious delays that the heart may not arrive in time.

heart in cooler