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Royal Papworth Hospital's heart and lung transplant programme is the biggest and most experienced unit in the country, treating patients from across the United Kingdom. Teams here perform approximately 90 adult heart, lung and heart-lung transplants each year, including about 50% of the UK's cardiothoracic DCD activity.
In addition, the transplant team also implant Ventricular Assist Devices which acts as a bridge for some patients on the heart transplant waiting list.
Royal Papworth Hospital is 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 almost 3,000 heart, lung and heart-lung transplants, with world-leading survival rates, the shortest waiting lists and an increasing number of patients living 30+ years post-transplant.
Teams at Royal Papworth have conducted the most heart transplants every year in the UK since 2008/09 and is the most active adult cardiothoracic transplant programme. In 2019/20, we performed 80 transplants which was more than any other UK centre, with survival rates consistently above the national average.
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 1984, Royal Papworth performed the UK's first successful heart-lung transplant and in 1986 the world's first heart-lung and liver.
There have been many more innovations and pioneering treatments along the way, before in 2015 a team at Royal Papworth Hospital became 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 hearts from donors following the diagnosis of brain-stem death (DBD).
In October 2018, Royal Papworth's DCD heart transplant operation was used on the 50th patient, and continues have the biggest programme in the world.
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.
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.
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.
Since performing the first successful heart transplant in the UK in 1979, Royal Papworth Hospital has continued to lead the way in cardiothoracic transplantation.
Useful advice and FAQs for our heart transplant and lung transplant patients at Royal Papworth Hospital
Stories from the transplant team at Royal Papworth Hospital