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The Transplant team at Royal Papworth Hospital carry out approximately 90 heart, lung and heart-lung transplants on patients from across the United Kingdom each year. In addition, they also implant Ventricular Assist Devices to bridge patients to heart transplants.

Heart and lung transplantation

Royal Papworth the country's main adult heart and lung transplant centre and has carried out a number of UK, European and world first transplants since the UK's first successful heart transplant operation at its old hospital in Papworth Everard in 1979. 

Since then, we have carried out more than 1,500 heart transplant operations and 800 lung transplant operations. 

The hospital has also pioneered the use of invasive monitoring and hormone resuscitation for managing multi-organ donors which has become the international gold standard in donor management.

In March 2015, a team at Royal Papworth Hospital was the first in Europe to successfully perform a transplant using a non-beating heart from a circulatory determined dead (DCD) donor. Up until then surgeons were only able to transplant beating hearts from donors following the diagnosis of brain death (DBD).

In October 2018, Royal Papworth's DCD heart transplant operation was used on the 50th patient, and continues to be a world record. 

The transplant team at Royal Papworth Hospital took this one step further when, in June 2019, the world's first DCD heart-lung operation was performed on a 24-year-old patient. 

Surgeons at Royal Papworth have conducted the most heart transplants every year in the UK since 2008/09, with the best risk-adjusted survival rates. According to NHSBT's Annual Report on Cardiothoracic Organ Transplantation 2018, the 30-day, one-year and five-year survival rates were the best in the country, with the lowest decline rates.

The report also highlighted that Royal Papworth had the lowest decline rate for lung transplantation, along with the best 90-day survival rate, of 92.9%, compared to the national average of 89.4%.

Mechanical devices

Royal Papworth Hospital has a long history of innovation in heart and lung transplantation and has been using mechanical circulatory support devices to treat patients with end-stage heart failure since the 1980s.

Sometimes, very sick heart failure patients require bridging therapy before transplantation. This can be through the insertion of a mechanical blood pump to assist the left ventricle of the heart, known as a ventricular assist device (VAD). Patients fitted with these devices can be independent within the community while waiting for a suitable donor heart.

Patient referrals

Patients are referred to the service by their local GP. The transplant physicians decide if the patient would be suitable for an outpatient and/or inpatient assessment. It is usual for a family member to accompany the patient on these visits. A range of planned tests are carried out and the process culminates in a multidisciplinary team meeting which discusses the options for each individual patient and makes recommendations for their future care. These options are then discussed with the patient.