Military veteran gets first heart transplant of its kind at Duke Hospital

ByTim Pulliam via KABC logo
Tuesday, December 3, 2019
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Military veteran gets first heart transplant of its kind at Duke Hospital

DURHAM, N.C. -- Doctors performed the first DCD heart transplant in the United States over the weekend at Duke University Hospital.

DCD stands for "Donation after Circulatory Death" and it occurs after the heart has stopped beating and the person has been declared dead. On Sunday, a heart transplant team at the hospital became the first in the U.S. to transplant an adult heart into a recipient when a military veteran received a new heart.

The veteran received his heart through the Mission Act and is recovering well.

Ben Bryner, MD assisted with the procurement and Carmelo Milano, MD assisted on the transplant.

"This is a really, really big deal for patients who need a heart transplant," said Dr. Jacob Schroder, surgical director at Duke's Heart Transplantation Program.

Traditionally, heart transplants required a donor to be declared brain dead first.

Under this new clinical trial , patients with end-stage heart failure no longer have to wait for that.

"We think that advancements like this might actually close the gap in some degree and offer hearts to more patients," said Dr. Chet Patel, medical director for the Heart Transplantation Program at Duke.

According to, Duke is one of five centers in the U.S. that has been approved to perform DCD heart transplants.

Worldwide, the procedure has been done 120 times over a five year period, according to Schroder.

This new study could last at least two years and will study up to 212 heart patients.

The clinical trial will primarily measure those patients' survival rates six months after the DCD Transplant.

Doctors encourage people who are interested in being organ donors to consult with their families and see if its right for you.

Last year, they performed 78 traditional-style heart transplants.

With this new experiment they hope to increase that number to 95 by the end of the year.